Developing a safe process for the degradation of active pharmaceutical ingredients in wastewater

EnviroChemie is compiling a study on the biodegradability of active pharmaceutical ingredients for a German pharmaceutical manufacturer and evaluating the toxicity of the resulting degradation products.

The human medicine market in Germany currently encompasses around 2,500 different active ingredients, which can enter wastewater during production. Active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) then build up in aquatic ecosystems. Municipal sewage treatment plants are often unable to break these active ingredients down.

A major German manufacturer commissioned EnviroChemie to conduct an initial test on potential processes for degrading active pharmaceutical ingredients. Using wastewater samples in laboratory and technical centre tests, EnviroChemie was able to demonstrate that the advanced oxidation process (AOP) can be used to degrade the active ingredients down to the limit of detection.

The pharmaceutical manufacturer’s production facility produces various different active ingredients. In order to assess each different production step and product, EnviroChemie was tasked with examining and treating the wastewater accruing over a period of three months.

The objective of the study is to determine how the active ingredients can be reliably degraded and – just as importantly – to assess the toxicity of the degradation products formed.

The study results can then be used to reliably design and implement a large-scale plant.

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