Predicting the uptake of emerging organic contaminants in vegetables irrigated with treated wastewater - Implications for food safety assessment

Mariano González García, Carmen Fernández-López*, Fabio Polesel, Stefan Trapp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Emerging organic contaminants (EOCs) undergoing incomplete removal during wastewater treatment may be found in treated wastewater (TWW) used for irrigation of agricultural products. Following uptake into edible plant parts, EOCs may eventually enter in the food chain, with associated human exposure. In the present study, we used a newly developed steady-state plant uptake model with added phloem transport to predict the uptake of four EOCs (carbamazepine, ibuprofen, ketoprofen and naproxen) into three varieties of lettuce. Input data were derived from an experimental study with vegetables grown in greenhouse and irrigated with TWW spiked with CBZ at 0, 30, 60, 120 and 210 µg/L in each variety of lettuce. Predicted carbamazepine concentrations in leaves were on average 82% higher than in roots, with good agreement between measured and calculated data. We subsequently predicted the uptake of anti-inflammatory compounds ibuprofen, ketoprofen and naproxen, for which the chemical analysis could not provide concentrations above detection limit. These three substances are weak acids and predicted concentrations in roots were higher than in the edible leaves, mainly due to phloem transport downwards. The daily dietary intake of all four EOCs was estimated for consumption of leafy vegetables, being far below usual therapeutic doses.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Research
Pages (from-to)175-181
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Greenhouse
  • Human risk
  • Lettuce
  • Modelling
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Treated wastewater reuse

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