Occurrence and removal of micropollutants in full-scale aerobic, anaerobic and facultative wastewater treatment plants in Brazil

Oladapo Komolafe*, Wojciech Mrozik, Jan Dolfing, Kishor Acharya, Lucas Vassalle, Cesar R. Mota, Russell Davenport

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


This study aims to evaluate micropollutant occurrence and removal in a low-middle income country (LMIC) by investigating the occurrence of 28 chemicals from different classes (triclosan, 15 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), 4 estrogens and 8 polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) congeners) in three technologically diverse full-scale Brazilian wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). These chemicals were detected at concentrations similar to those reported in other low-middle income countries (LMICs) and high-income countries (HICs) (0.1–49 μg/L) indicating their widespread use globally and the need for more studies in LMICs that are typically characterized by relatively inadequate wastewater treatment barriers. Among the three different WWTPs investigated for removal of these chemicals, the least energy intensive system, waste stabilization ponds (WSPs), was the most effective (95–99%) compared to the activated sludge (79–94%), and Up-flow sludge blanket reactor (UASB) with trickling filters system (89–95%). These results highlight the potential of WSPs for micropollutant removal-especially in warm climates. However, the effluent from all three WWTP could pose a risk to aquatic organisms when discharged into the receiving waters as the effluent concentrations of triclosan, some estrogens, PAHs and BDE 209 were above European environmental quality standards (EQS) or predicted no effect concentration (PNEC values), indicating that receiving water bodies could benefit from further treatment. In combination, these results help to further understand prevailing concentrations of micropollutants globally and fate in current wastewater treatment systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112286
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Early online date9 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


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