Approach for detecting mutagenicity of biodegraded and ozonated pharmaceuticals, metabolites and transformation products from a drinking water perspective

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


  • Stefan Gartiser
  • Christoph Hafner
  • Kerstin Kronenberger-Schäfer
  • Oliver Happel
  • Christoph Trautwein
  • Klaus Kümmerer
Many pharmaceuticals and related metabolites are not efficiently removed in sewage treatment plants and enter into surface water. There, they might be subject of drinking water abstraction and treatment by ozonation. In this study, a systematic approach for producing and effect-based testing of transformation products (TPs) during the drinking water ozonation process is proposed. For this, two pharmaceutical parent substances, three metabolites and one environmental degradation product were investigated with respect to their biodegradability and fate during drinking water ozonation. The Ames test (TA98, TA100) was used for the identification of mutagenic activity present in the solutions after testing inherent biodegradability and/or after ozonation of the samples. Suspicious results were complemented with the umu test. Due to the low substrate concentration required for ozonation, all ozonated samples were concentrated via solid phase extraction (SPE) before performing the Ames test. With the exception of piracetam, all substances were only incompletely biodegradable, suggesting the formation of stable TPs. Metformin, piracetam and guanylurea could not be removed completely by the ozonation process. We received some evidence that technical TPs are formed by ozonation of metformin and piracetam, whereas all tested metabolites were not detectable by analytical means after ozonation. In the case of guanylurea, one ozonation TP was identified by LC/MS. None of the experiments showed an increase of mutagenic effects in the Ames test. However, the SPE concentration procedure might lead to false-positive results due to the generation of mutagenic artefacts or might lead to false-negative results by missing adequate recovery efficiency. Thus, these investigations should always be accompanied by process blank controls that are carried out along the whole ozonation and SPE procedure. The study presented here is a first attempt to investigate the significance of transformation products by a systematic approach. However, the adequacy and sensitivity of the methodology need to be further investigated. The approach of combining biodegradation and ozonation with effect-based assays is a promising tool for the early detection of potential hazards from TPs as drinking water contaminants. It can support the strategy for the evaluation of substances and metabolites in drinking water. A multitude of possible factors which influence the results have to be carefully considered, among them the selectivity and sensibility of the mutagenicity test applied, the extraction method for concentrating the relevant compounds and the biocompatibility of the solvent. Therefore, the results have to be carefully interpreted, and possible false-negative and false-positive results should be considered.
Translated title of the contributionMutagenität von biodegradierten und ozonierten Arzneimitteln, Metaboliten und Transformationsprodukten von einer Trinkwasser-Perspektive entdecken.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)3597-3609
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 09.2012

    Research areas

  • Chemistry - drinking water, Genotoxicity, Inherent biodegradability, Metabolite, Mutagenicity, Ozonation, ozone, pharmaceutical, Risk Assessment, Transformation product
  • Sustainability Science