Stable gadolinium (Gd) complexes have been used as paramagnetic contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for over 20 years, and have recently been identified as environmental contaminants. As the rare earth elements (REE), which include Gd, are able to be measured accurately at very low concentrations (e.g. Tb is measured at 7 fmol/kg in this study) using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), it is possible to determine the fate of this class of compounds during the production of purified recycled water from effluent. Coagulation and microfiltration have negligible removal, with the major removal step occurring across the reverse osmosis membrane where anthropogenic Gd (the amount of Gd attributable to MRI contrast agents) is reduced from 0.39 nmol/kg to 0.59 pmol/kg, a reduction of 99.85%. The RO concentrate has anthropogenic Gd concentrations of 2.6 nmol/kg, an increase in concentration in line with the design characteristics of the plant. The increased concentration in the RO concentrate may allow further development of anthropogenic Gd as a tracer of the fate of the RO concentrate in the environment.

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