Plasticizers can persist during the treatment of wastewaters in sewage treatment plants (STPs) and can be discharged in effluents and/or accumulated in sewage sludges. For example, di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) is a common plasticizer that is now considered a priority pollutant and is known to accumulate in sludges. This may add constraints to the exploitation of the beneficial uses of sludges that contain significant quantities of plasticizers. Recently, it was demonstrated in studies with pure cultures that the biodegradation of plasticizers including DEHP and di-ethylhexyl adipate (DEHA) generates toxic metabolites including 2-ethylhexanoic acid, 2-ethylhexanol, and 2-ethylhexanal. However, the environmental impacts and fate of the degradation products arising from plasticizers are unknown. Therefore, this work investigated the concentrations of DEHP and DEHA and their metabolites in the sludges from several STPs in Quebec, Canada. DEHP and DEHA were found in concentrations ranging from 15 to 346 mg kg−1 and 4 to 743 mg kg−1, respectively, in primary, secondary, digested, dewatered or dried sludges. Metabolites were detected in almost all sludges, except those that had undergone a drying process at high temperature. It is concluded that sludges can represent significant sources of plasticizers and their toxic metabolites in the environment.

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