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Polyamide microplastics in wastewater as vectors of cationic pharmaceutical drugs. [Dataset]


Anthony Wagstaff
Data Collector


Wastewater is an environmental source of microplastics and pharmaceuticals, which is discharged as treated effluent or combined sewer overflows. In this study, adsorption of cationic pharmaceuticals, with a range of octanol-water distribution coefficients, to polyamide (Nylon 12) microplastics was investigated in real wastewater samples. Significant adsorption was observed for the more hydrophobic pharmaceuticals studied, propranolol, amitriptyline, and fluoxetine, with equilibrium reached within 24 h. Microplastic-wastewater distribution coefficients for these three pharmaceuticals were 191, 749 and 1020 L kg−1, respectively. Favourable wastewater conditions for adsorption of pharmaceuticals to polyamide were at pH>7, summer temperatures (20°C), and no stormwater dilution. Adsorption of the more hydrophilic pharmaceuticals atenolol, pseudoephedrine, metoprolol, and tramadol was ≤7% under all conditions and considered insignificant. Limited desorption (7–17%) of propranolol, amitriptyline, and fluoxetine was observed in river water over 24h. This suggests that microplastics may be able to transport adsorbed pharmaceuticals for considerable distances after discharge. In simulated gastric fluids their desorption increased to 24–27% and 40–58% in cold- and warm-blooded temperatures respectively. The findings demonstrate that wastewater microplastics could act as a vector of pharmaceutical drugs, from wastewater treatment plants to aquatic organisms. This supplementary information contains four figures and two tables which includes pharmaceutical recoveries through different filters, isotherm data, pharmaceutical log DOW values and drug speciation at varying pH, the MS/MS instrumental parameters, and the p-values from the statistical analysis.


WAGSTAFF, A., LAWTON, L.A. and PETRIE, B. 2022. Polyamide microplastics in wastewater as vectors of cationic pharmaceutical drugs. [Dataset]. Chemosphere [online], 288(Part 2), article 132578. Available from:

Acceptance Date Oct 13, 2021
Online Publication Date Oct 14, 2021
Publication Date Feb 28, 2022
Deposit Date Oct 18, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 15, 2022
Publisher Elsevier
Keywords Emerging contaminant; Adsorption; Desorption; Environmental chemistry; Water pollution; Microplastic
Public URL
Related Public URLs
Type of Data Supplementary figures and tables.
Collection Date Apr 30, 2021
Collection Method Analytical reference standards of acebutolol, amitriptyline hydrochloride, atenolol, carbamazepine, codeine, fluoxetine hydrochloride, propranolol hydrochloride, pseudoephedrine, and tramadol hydrochloride, were purchased from Sigma Aldrich (Gillingham, UK). Acebutolol, carbamazepine, and codeine were utilised as internal standards. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) grade methanol, ammonium formate, and formic acid were purchased from Fisher Scientific (Loughborough, UK). GF/F glass fibre filter papers, 4 mm PVDF 0.45 µm syringe filters, hydrochloric acid (HCl), and sodium hydroxide (NaOH) was also obtained from Fisher Scientific. Ultrapure water was 18.2 MΩ cm-1 quality. Sodium azide (NaN3), sodium chloride (NaCl), and pepsin A were purchased from Sigma Aldrich. Polyamide microplastics (Nylon 12, maximum size – 250 µm and median size – 90 µm) were obtained from Goodfellow Cambridge Limited (Huntingdon, UK; Table 2). Wastewater (50 L) was collected from a septic tank in North-East Scotland during January 2021 and frozen at -20 °C. Stormwater (road runoff, 5 L) was collected following rainfall experienced on three consecutive days in March 2021. River water (5 L) was collected in April 2021. The same wastewater was used in all experiments and did not contain detectable levels of any of the studied pharmaceuticals. Wastewater was defrosted overnight, filtered through GF/F filters, and treated with 0.2 g L-1 sodium azide to limit microbial activity. Wastewater volumes of 20 mL had 50 mg of polyamide microplastic added in 50 mL conical flasks. A full description of methods and materials used can be found in Section 2 of the full article (DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.132578).


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