Pharmaceuticals and personal care products' (PPCPs) impact on enriched nitrifying cultures

Lopez, Carla and Nnorom, Mac-Anthony and Tsang, Yiu Fai and Knapp, Charles W. (2021) Pharmaceuticals and personal care products' (PPCPs) impact on enriched nitrifying cultures. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 28 (43). pp. 60968-60980. ISSN 1614-7499 (

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The impact of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) on the performance of biological wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) has been widely studied using whole-community approaches. These contaminants affect the capacity of microbial communities to transform nutrients; however, most have neither honed their examination on the nitrifying communities directly nor considered the impact on individual populations. In this study, six PPCPs commonly found in WWTPs, including a stimulant (caffeine), an antimicrobial agent (triclosan), an insect repellent ingredient (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET)) and antibiotics (ampicillin, colistin and ofloxacin), were selected to assess their short-term toxic effect on enriched nitrifying cultures: Nitrosomonas sp. and Nitrobacter sp. The results showed that triclosan exhibited the greatest inhibition on nitrification with EC 50 of 89.1 μg L −1. From the selected antibiotics, colistin significantly affected the overall nitrification with the lowest EC 50 of 1 mg L −1, and a more pronounced inhibitory effect on ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) compared to nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB). The EC 50 of ampicillin and ofloxacin was 23.7 and 12.7 mg L −1, respectively. Additionally, experimental data suggested that nitrifying bacteria were insensitive to the presence of caffeine. In the case of DEET, moderate inhibition of nitrification (<40%) was observed at 10 mg L −1. These findings contribute to the understanding of the response of nitrifying communities in presence of PPCPs, which play an essential role in biological nitrification in WWTPs. Knowing specific community responses helps develop mitigation measures to improve system resilience.


Lopez, Carla, Nnorom, Mac-Anthony, Tsang, Yiu Fai and Knapp, Charles W. ORCID logoORCID:;