The Surface-pore Integrated Effect of Soil Organic Matter on Retention and Transport of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in Soils


Qin Qin, Xijuan Chen, Jie Zhuang


This study examines a surface-pore integrated mechanism that allows soil organic matter (SOM) to influence the retention and transport of three representative pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs)-ibuprofen, carbamazepine, and bisphenol A-in agricultural soil. A series of sorption-desorption batch tests and breakthrough column experiments were conducted using manured and non-manured soils. Results show that SOM could substantially influence the environmental behaviors of PPCPs via two mechanisms: surface-coating and pore-filling. Surface-coating with molecular SOM decreases the sorption of dissociated PPCPs (e.g., ibuprofen) but increases the sorption of non-dissociated PPCPs (e.g., carbamazepine and bisphenol A), while pore-filling with colloidal SOM enhances the retention of all the PPCPs by providing nano-/micro-pores that limit diffusion. The higher retention and lower mobility of PPCPs in soil microaggregates than in bulk soils suggest that SOM content and SOM-altered soil pore structure could exert a coupled effect on PPCP retention. Differences in the elution of PPCPs with low surface tension solution (i.e., 20% ethanol) in the presence and absence of SOM indicate that PPCPs prefer to remain in SOM-filled pores. Overall, ibuprofen has a high environmental risk, whereas carbamazepine and bisphenol A could be readily retarded in agricultural soils (with a loamy clay texture). This study implies that SOM accrual (particularly pore-filling SOM) has a high potential for reducing the off-site risks of PPCPs by increasing soil nano-/micro-porosity.

Access Full Publication


Qin Q, Chen XJ, Zhuang J. 2017. The surface-pore integrated effect of soil organic matter on retention and transport of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in soils. Science of the Total Environment 599:42-49.