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Landfill leachate as a mirror of today's disposable society: Pharmaceuticals and other contaminants of emerging concern in final leachate from landfills in the conterminous United States

October 1, 2015

Final leachates (leachate after storage or treatment processes) from 22 landfills in 12 states were analyzed for 190 pharmaceuticals and other contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), which were detected in every sample, with the number of CECs ranging from 1 to 58 (median = 22). In total, 101 different CECs were detected in leachate samples, including 43 prescription pharmaceuticals, 22 industrial chemicals, 15 household chemicals, 12 nonprescription pharmaceuticals, 5 steroid hormones, and 4 animal/plant sterols. The most frequently detected CECs were lidocaine (91%, local anesthetic), cotinine (86%, nicotine degradate), carisoprodol (82%, muscle relaxant), bisphenol A (77%, component of plastics and thermal paper), carbamazepine (77%, anticonvulsant), and N,N-diethyltoluamide (68%, insect repellent). Concentrations of CECs spanned 7 orders of magnitude, ranging from 2.0 ng/L (estrone) to 17 200 000 ng/L (bisphenol A). Concentrations of household and industrial chemicals were the greatest (∼1000-1 000 000 ng/L), followed by plant/animal sterols (∼1000-100 000 ng/L), nonprescription pharmaceuticals (∼100-10 000 ng/L), prescription pharmaceuticals (∼10-10 000 ng/L), and steroid hormones (∼10-100 ng/L). The CEC concentrations in leachate from active landfills were significantly greater than those in leachate from closed, unlined landfills (p = 0.05). The CEC concentrations were significantly greater (p < 0.01) in untreated leachate compared with treated leachate. The CEC concentrations were significantly greater in leachate disposed to wastewater treatment plants from modern lined landfills than in leachate released to groundwater from closed, unlined landfills (p = 0.04). The CEC concentrations were significantly greater (p = 0.06) in the fresh leachate (leachate before storage or treatment) reported in a previous study compared with the final leachate sampled for the present study.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Landfill leachate as a mirror of today's disposable society: Pharmaceuticals and other contaminants of emerging concern in final leachate from landfills in the conterminous United States
DOI 10.1002/etc.3219
Authors Jason R. Masoner, Dana W. Kolpin, Edward T. Furlong, Isabelle M. Cozzarelli, James L. Gray
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Series Number
Index ID 70154751
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Water Quality Laboratory