Thermal baths as sources of pharmaceutical and illicit drug contamination.


Geographical Institute, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budaörsi út 45, Budapest, H-1112, Hungary. [Email]


Despite the fact that there are tens of thousands of thermal baths in existence, knowledge about the occurrence of pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs) in untreated thermal wastewater is very limited. Because used thermal water is typically legally discharged into surface waters without any treatment, the effluent poses environmental risks for the receiving water bodies. The aim of this study was to show the occurrence patterns and spatiotemporal characteristics of 111 PhACs in thermal wastewater. Six thermal water outflows of different thermal baths were tested in different seasons in the Budapest metropolitan region (Hungary), and diurnal analysis was performed. After solid-phase extraction, the samples were analysed and quantified by coupling supercritical fluid chromatography and mass spectrometry to perform simultaneous multi-residue drug analysis. The results confirm that water discharge pipes directly transport pharmaceuticals into surface water bodies; 34 PhACs were measured to be over the limit of quantification at least once, and 21 of them were found in more than one water sample. The local anaesthetic drug lidocaine, antiepileptic carbamazepine, analgesic derivative tramadol and illicit drug cocaine were detected in more than half of the samples. Caffeine, metoprolol and bisoprolol (cardiovascular drugs), benzoylecgonine (cocaine metabolite), diclofenac (NSAID), citalopram (antidepressant) and certain types of hormones also have a significant frequency of 30-50%. However, the occurrence and concentrations of PhACs vary according to the season and number/types of visitors. As demonstrated by the diurnal fluctuation, drug contamination of thermal waters can significantly vary, even for similar types of baths; furthermore, the quantity and types of some pollutants rapidly change in the discharged thermal wastewater.


Discharged thermal wastewater (DTWW),Pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs),Surface water contamination,Tourism,

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