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Irrigation of crops with surface water contaminated with pharmaceuticals and trace metals

Surface water is the main receptor of wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents from large cities. The use of this resource for crop irrigation raises the urgent need to study the contaminant transfer encompassing the global “Source-Propagation-Receptor” system.

The main objective of the FatePharM (Irrigation of crops with surface water contaminated with pharmaceuticals and trace metals: natural attenuation or health risk?) project which, a multidisciplinary and multiscale approach, addresses the concerns raised in the scientific-technical, social and economic spheres by the presence of pharmaceuticals and trace metals in the context of Chemical Mixtures.

In this sense, the challenge of FatePharM relies in the identification of the risk for food safety (human health) and the environment associated with the indirect reuse of contaminated surface water for crop irrigation. The two areas of action are: 1) The evaluation of the transfer of pharmaceuticals, transformation products and trace metals in Chemical Mixtures; and 2) The identification and quantification of the chemical and ecotoxicological impact of the pharmaceutical-trace metals interaction.

According to the area of action, the project has been structured in two working scales that will be addressed in a complementary way:

-  The source of contamination (WWTP), the propagation (rivers, ditches...) and the receptor (agricultural soils and crops) of pharmaceuticals, transformation products and trace metals in the study area will be evaluated at the field scale during 1 year.

-  The impact of pharmaceutical-trace metals interactions in Chemical Mixtures during infiltration through the soil will be evaluated at laboratory scale by means of infiltration reactors specifically designed for monitoring of contaminants (transport, microbiological activity and bioassays with crops).

The project, directed by Dr. Ana de Santiago and Dr. Raffaella Meffe, is carring out by a multidisciplinar team, since it gathers their experience with Chemical Mixtures, (pharmaceuticals and trace metals), different approaches (physicochemical, ecotoxicological), environmental compartm ents (water, soil, biota) and working scales (field, laboratory). The impact of FatePharM reaches different aims. From the social point of view, it helps to determine the risk for human health by the studied contaminants. This also economically impacts on the selection of those minimizing this risk when prioritizing their use against others.

FatePharM has received funding from MINECO (Ref. CTM2017-89995-R)