Treatment of anticancer drugs in hospital and wastewater effluents using nanofiltration

M. B. Cristóvão, J. Torrejais, R. Janssens, P. Luis, B. Van der Bruggen, K. K. Dubey, M. K. Mandal, M. R. Bronze, J. G. Crespo, V. J. Pereira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Anticancer drugs are currently widely used for the treatment of cancer and have been detected in hospital effluents, wastewater treatment plant effluents and river water samples in concentrations up to the µg·L −1 range. Within the next two decades, the annual number of cancer cases is expected to rise, which will lead to an increase in the consumption of anticancer drugs. These drugs are extremely important due to their highly potent mechanism of action and their potential risk for humans and the environment. Therefore, the development of effective treatment options is crucial to avoid the release of these emerging contaminants in the aquatic environment. The aim of this study was to assess the viability of nanofiltration for remediation, using as benchmark two representative membranes (Desal 5DK and NF270)to remove four widely consumed anticancer drugs (paclitaxel, etoposide, cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide)from different matrices (laboratory grade water, synthetic urine and real secondary effluent). Experimental results showed that the Desal 5DK membrane is more effective than the NF270 membrane for the rejection of these compounds. It presented average rejections higher than 89% for all the target anticancer drugs spiked in synthetic urine and real secondary effluent, showing no significant matrix influence on the rejection results. Daphnia magna toxicity tests showed that the immobilization effect observed in the permeate samples was lower than the feed samples. The target compounds have very different structures and physico-chemical properties and thus the high effectiveness reported for the Desal 5DK membrane is a good indication of what can be expected to a multitude of compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-280
Number of pages8
JournalSeparation and Purification Technology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Acute toxicity
  • Anticancer drugs
  • Nanofiltration
  • Real secondary effluent
  • Synthetic urine


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