This work was conducted to study the potential of molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) for the removal of oestradiol at trace concentrations (1 ppm–1 ppb). An MIP synthesised with 17β-oestradiol as template was compared to non-imprinted polymers (NIP) synthesised under the same conditions but without template, a commercial C18 extraction phase and granulated activated carbon. At 1 ppb oestradiol was recovered by 98±2% when using the MIP, compared to 90±1, 79±1, and 84±2% when using the NIP, a C18 phase, or granulated activated carbon, respectively. According to these levels, the MIP was capable of producing an effluent with a quality 5–10 times higher than the other materials. The same levels of oestradiol recovery were achieved with the MIP when supplying 17β-oestradiol at 0.1 ppm. Phenolic compounds added as interferences bound less to the MIP than to the NIP, confirming the selectivity of the MIP. Oestradiol biodegradation was also demonstrated at high concentrations (50 ppm), showing the pollutants can be safely destructed after being enriched by molecular extraction. This study demonstrates the potential of molecular imprinted polymers as a highly efficient specific adsorbent for the removal of trace contaminants.

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