Thirteen pharmaceutical and cosmetic compounds have been surveyed along the different units of a municipal sewage treatment plant (STP) to study their fate across each step and the overall removal efficiency. The STP studied corresponds to a population of approximately 100,000 inhabitants located in Galicia (northwest Spain), including three main sections: pre-treatment (coarse and fine screening, grit and fat removal); primary treatment (sedimentation tanks); and secondary treatment (conventional activated sludge). Among all the substances considered (galaxolide, tonalide, carbamazepine, diazepam, diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, estrone, estradiol, ethinylestradiol, roxitromycin, sulfamethoxazole and iopromide), only significant concentrations were found for two musks (galaxolide and tonalide), two antiphlogistics (ibuprofen and naproxen), two natural estrogens (estrone, estradiol), one antibiotic (sulfamethoxazole) and the X-ray contrast media (iopromide), being the other compounds below the quantification level. In the primary treatment, only the fragrances were partly removed, with efficiencies of 20–50% for galaxolide and tonalide. However, the aerobic treatment caused an important reduction in all compounds detected, between 35 and 75%, with the exception of iopromide. The overall removal efficiency of the STP ranged between 70 and 90% for the fragrances, 45 and 70% for the acidic compounds, around 67% for estradiol and 57% for the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole.

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