Degradation of pharmaceuticals and metabolite in synthetic human urine by UV, UV/H2O2, and UV/PDS

Ruochun Zhang, Peizhe Sun, Treavor H. Boyer, Lin Zhao, Ching Hua Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

340 Scopus citations


To minimize environmental pharmaceutical micropollutants, treatment of human urine could be an efficient approach due to the high pharmaceutical concentration and toxic potential excreted in urine. This study investigated the degradation kinetics and mechanisms of sulfamethoxazole (SMX), trimethoprim (TMP) and N4-acetyl-sulfamethoxazole (acetyl-SMX) in synthetic fresh and hydrolyzed human urines by low-pressure UV, and UV combined with H2O2 and peroxydisulfate (PDS). The objective was to compare the two advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) and assess the impact of urine matrices. All three compounds reacted quickly in the AOPs, exhibiting rate constants of (6.09-8.53) × 109 M-1·s-1 with hydroxyl radical, and (2.35-16.1) × 109 M-1·s-1 with sulfate radical. In fresh urine matrix, the pharmaceuticals' indirect photolysis was significantly suppressed by the scavenging effect of urine citrate and urea. In hydrolyzed urine matrix, the indirect photolysis was strongly affected by inorganic urine constituents. Chloride had no apparent impact on UV/H2O2, but significantly raised the hydroxyl radical concentration in UV/PDS. Carbonate species reacted with hydroxyl or sulfate radical to generate carbonate radical, which degraded SMX and TMP, primarily due to the presence of aromatic amino group(s) (k = 2.68 × 108 and 3.45 × 107 M-1·s-1) but reacted slowly with acetyl-SMX. Ammonia reacted with hydroxyl or sulfate radical to generate reactive nitrogen species that could react appreciably only with SMX. Kinetic simulation of radical concentrations, along with products analysis, helped elucidate the major reactive species in the pharmaceuticals' degradation. Overall, the AOPs' performance was higher in the hydrolyzed urine than fresh urine matrix with UV/PDS better than UV/H2O2, and varied significantly depending on pharmaceutical's structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3056-3066
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 3 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Degradation of pharmaceuticals and metabolite in synthetic human urine by UV, UV/H2O2, and UV/PDS'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this