For some years it has been known that there are ingredients in the wastewater, which can be removed only slightly or not at all during the wastewater treatment in the sewage treatment plant. There is talk of micropollutants. These include substances such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, but also microplastics.
These compounds are synthetically produced, non-natural contaminants found in the lowest concentrations of billionths (nano) to millionths (micro) grams per liter.
Once these connections have left their intended application, say e.g. being flushed down in the toilet, thrown away carelessly or disposed of incorrectly, or even if they get into the environment by an unfortunate accident, then everyday helpers become an environmental problem.
Example: Pharmaceuticals in our water affect humans and the environment.
How do pharmaceuticals get into our water and how do they work?
To sum up the facts unadorned: When we take pharmaceuticals, we excrete their active ingredients or degradation products at some point again. They enter the sewage via the toilet. In addition, expired
medicines that are disposed of via the toilet – not properly – are disposed of.
Painkillers such as diclofenac, ibuprofen and aspirin are ranked #1 in the list of active ingredient groups detected in wastewater, rivers and soils, as well as in groundwater in the smallest amounts. What impact this will have on people is not yet one hundred percent to say at this time. In fish, accumulations of pharmaceutical residues have led to changes in behavior and in organs.
However, absolute consumption levels are not a suitable indicator to draw conclusions about the environmental impact of drugs and their breakdown products. For this it is important to consider the concentration in the water. High concentrations mean up to 1,000 Nano grams per liter in the case of drug concentration in water. Whether that is a lot or a little is hard to say.
For example, if a drug in tablet form contains an active ingredient in milligram concentration, that could be a million times more active than we might later find in the waters. However, a medicinal agent in humans is used deliberately and taking into account dosage as well as possible side effects and interactions. How a drug or a degradation product in which concentration in the wider water cycle works and what interactions with
other (micro-) substances arise, is currently completely unclear.
Example: Tiny little particles called Microplastics.
Plastic alias plastic accompany every day and determine us more than ever. Many everyday items are made of plastic and often in direct contact with us, such as the clothes we wear on the body, or the scrub with which we wash ourselves.
Particularly problematic is plastic in its smallest
form. Parts smaller than 5 mm in size are called microplastics. This accumulates in the environment, especially in rivers, lakes and in the sea. The sources are divers.
The washingmachine throws the plastic out of our clothes.
Plastic clothing, e.g. Fleece fabrics release fibers into the wastewater with every wash. This is microplastic (particles smaller than 5 mm), since the starting materials are polyethylene, polyamide, polyester
and similar, so-called polymers.
The same applies to recycled textiles made of synthetic fibers. The amount fluctuates very much. Polyester-cotton blends scrape less than other plastic garments. The addition of fabric softener increases the proportion of abrasive fibers . To remedy this situation requires enormous efforts with the current procedures.
Cosmetics are another unsightly “microplastic construction site”.
According to a study by the German Federal Environment Agency alone 500 tons of polyethylene are used for cosmetic products. Over all other applications of primary microplastics e.g. Coatings, industrial abrasives
etc. are not available [2, 3]
In secondary microplastics, scientists estimate that 6 – 10% of the world’s plastics production is generated. In addition to plastic waste, which slowly disintegrates, it also includes tire wear from road traffic
and losses of granules or plastic pellets, even before they are further processed.
Always informed about Water 3.0
How do micropollutants not get in or out of our water?
The treatment plants are currently not designed or have long reached the limit of their capacity to eliminate substances such as microplastics, pharmaceuticals and pesticides.
We at Wasser 3.0 are able to remove pollutants in variable concentrations and compositions from the effluent using researched adaptive hybrid silica gels and new material-technology combinations. Thus they do not even get into the wider water cycle and the food chain of humans and animals.
The solutions to the “microplastic problem” can be just as diverse. For the removal of (waste) water, Wasser 3.0 has researched, developed and advanced a solution to market maturity. More here (Link: Pilot plants: Wasser 3.0 PE-X)
We can all contribute to clean water.
Proper disposal of pharmaceuticals already helps enormously. For example, if we dump expired medicines in the future and not in the toilet or over the sink, they will not even get into the sewers.
Points of contact in all other areas are, among other things, the change in our consumption behavior towards sustainable and careful dealings in everyday life.