Bioavailability of pharmaceuticals in waters close to wastewater treatment plants: Use of fish bile for exposure assessment

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Pharmaceuticals are ubiquitous in surface waters as a consequence of discharges from municipal wastewater treatment plants. However, few studies have assessed the bioavailability of pharmaceuticals to fish in natural waters. In the present study, passive samplers and rainbow trout were experimentally deployed next to three municipal wastewater treatment plants in Finland to evaluate the degree of animal exposure. Pharmaceuticals from several therapeutic classes (in total 15) were analyzed by liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry in extracts of passive samplers and in bile and blood plasma of rainbow trout held at polluted sites for 10 d.Each approach indicated the highest exposure near wastewater treatment plant A and the lowest near that of plant C. Diclofenac, naproxen, and ibuprofen were found in rainbow trout, and their concentrations in bile were 10 to 400 times higher than in plasma. Also the phase I metabolite hydroxydiclofenac was detected in bile. Hence, bile proved to be an excellent sample matrix for the exposure assessment of fish. Most of the monitored pharmaceuticals were found in passive samplers, implying that they may overestimate the actual exposure of fish in receiving waters. Two biomarkers, hepatic vitellogenin and cytochrome P4501A, did not reveal clear effects on fish, although a small induction of vitellogenin mRNA was observed in trout caged near wastewater treatment plants B and C. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. © 2012 SETAC

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