Transformation products of sulfonamides in aquatic systems: Lessons learned from available environmental fate and behaviour data

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Sulfonamides (SUAs) and their transformation products (TPs) contribute to environmental pollution. Importance of research on TPs' properties has been emphasised, e.g. allowing a comprehensive environmental risk assessment of their parent compounds. However, TPs' properties have been discussed in reviews on SUAs only marginally, if at all. For the first time, a scientific literature review aims to discuss the current state of knowledge on SUA-TPs including research gaps, and commonalities of SUA-TPs and TPs in general. Literature on SUA-TPs was consulted systematically to collect data on occurrence, physicochemical properties, degradability, and (eco)toxicity. TPs of 14 SUAs were reviewed, and aspects applicable for TPs in general were identified to guide future handling of TPs as a complex category of compounds. The data of sulfamethoxazole (SMX), the main representative, was analysed in more detail to discuss insights on a chemical level. Literature search resulted in 607 SUA-TPs reported in 222 publications. Only for 4%, 31%, and 35% of these TPs, data on occurrence in aquatic systems, on degradation, and (eco)toxicity, respectively, was found. Several mixtures of SUA-TPs were more ecotoxic than their parent compounds, e.g. 10 of 15 mixtures of SMX-TPs. Only few TPs were tested as single substance. Although several TPs could be eliminated experimentally, their mineralisation rate remained often unknown. Thus, further transformation to persistent TPs could not be ruled out. Standardised biodegradability tests of individual TPs would monitor their mineralisation rate, but are almost completely lacking. Reasons are likely poor availability of TPs, but also the focus on abiotic water treatment. Data assessment demonstrated that data of high significance according to standard methods, e.g. OECD methods for chronic (eco)toxicity and ready biodegradability, is needed to assess environmental risks of prioritised TPs, but also to redesign their parent pharmaceutical for complete environmental mineralisation in a long-term (Benign by Design).

Original languageEnglish
Article number154744
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume830
ISSN0048-9697
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15.07.2022

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    Research areas

  • Assessment, Degradability, Ecotoxicity, Pharmaceutical, Risk, Treatment
  • Chemistry