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Factors hindering the degradation of pharmaceuticals from human urine in an iron-activated persulfate system

Guanghao Chen , Yiruiwen Xie , Dao Guan , Yangfan Deng , Yugo Sato , Yu Luo


Received October 12, 2022,Revised , Accepted December 16, 2022, Available online December 25, 2022

Volume 36,2024,Pages 130-148

This study investigated the degradation of clofibric acid (CFA), bezafibrate (BZF), and sulfamethoxazole (SMX) in synthetic human urine using a novel mesoporous iron powder-activated persulfate system (mFe-PS system), and identified the factors limiting their degradation in synthetic human urine. A kinetic model was established to expose the radical production in various reaction conditions, and experiments were conducted to verify the modeling results. In the phosphate-containing mFe-PS system, the 120 min removal efficiency of CFA decreased from 95.1% to 76.6% as the phosphate concentration increased from 0.32 to 6.45 mmol/L, but recovered to 90.5% when phosphate concentration increased to 16.10 mmol/L. Meanwhile, the increased concentration of phosphate from 0.32 to 16.10 mmol/L reduced the BZF degradation efficacy from 91.5% to 79.0%, whereas SMX removal improved from 37.3% to 62.9%. The mFe-PS system containing (bi)carbonate, from 4.20 to 166.70 mmol/L, reduced CFA and BZF removal efficiencies from 100% to 76.8% and 80.4%, respectively, and SMX from 83.5% to 56.7% within a 120-min reaction time. In addition, alkaline conditions (pH ≥ 8.0) inhibited CFA and BZF degradations, while nonacidic pH (pH ≥ 7.0) remarkably inhibited SMX degradation. Results of the kinetic model indicated the formation of phosphate (H2PO4·/HPO4·−) and/or carbonate radicals (CO3·−) could limit pharmaceutical removal. The transformation products (TPs) of the pharmaceuticals revealed more incompletely oxidized TPs occurred in the phosphate- and (bi)carbonate-containing mFe-PS systems, and indicated that H2PO4·/HPO4·− mainly degraded pharmaceuticals via a benzene ring-opening reaction while CO3·− preferentially oxidized pharmaceuticals via a hydroxylation reaction.

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