Phytotoxicity assessment of diclofenac and its phototransformation products

Schmitt-Jansen, Mechthild; Bartels, Peter; Adler, Nicole; Altenburger, Rolf
February 2007
Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry;Feb2007, Vol. 387 Issue 4, p1389
Academic Journal
The occurrence of pharmaceuticals in the environment is an emerging issue. Several studies observed that the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac is ubiquitously present in most of the surveyed surface waters, worldwide. Phototransformation of diclofenac was reported from laboratory assays as well as in natural water systems, raising the question of possible adverse effects of the phototransformation products of diclofenac to aquatic organisms. In this study the phytotoxicity of diclofenac exposed to natural sunlight was evaluated using synchronized cultures of the unicellular chlorophyte Scenedesmus vacuolatus. Diclofenac dissolved in ultra-pure water at 50 mg L−1 was exposed to natural midsummer sunlight for a maximum of 145 h. Twice a day subsamples were taken for chromatography and parallel phytotoxicity assessment. Inhibition of algal reproduction of the initial diclofenac solution was in the mg L−1 range indicating no specific toxicity of diclofenac towards S. vacuolatus. Fast degradation of diclofenac was observed with half lives between 3.3 and 6.4 h during the first and the third day of exposure, respectively. Phytotoxicity increased after 3.5 h of exposure of diclofenac to sunlight and showed a maximum of sixfold enhanced toxicity after 53 h of exposure to sunlight. Several phototransformation products were found during the experiment. The time courses of the relative concentration of three transformation products significantly correlated with enhanced phytotoxicity during the experiment. This indicates a high toxicity potential of phototransformation products of diclofenac at concentration levels that may come close to environmental concentrations of residual diclofenac after degradation. We conclude that toxicity assessment of phototransformation products should be included in the risk assessment of pharmaceuticals in the environment.


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