Elimination of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and other problematic components from wastewater
Pharmaceuticals and their metabolites are detected on an increasing scale in the aquatic environment. The pharmaceuticals (such as drugs) mostly get into the surface and drinking water through the excretions of humans and animals; however, the wastewater of pharmaceutical production facilities can also be contaminated with active ingredients.
The production of pharmaceuticals takes place in two steps. In a first step, APIs as the central ingredients are produced by raw material. APIs can incorporate all kind of active substances such as antibiotics, or chemical products such as paracetamol or other special products. The excipient is the inactive substance in the drug that is mixed with the active substances into tablets, filled capsules or solutions.
This article mainly addresses the production of APIs. Driven by lower costs, API production has slowly been shifting to new firms - especially in India and China.
During the production process, wastewater containing the APIs is created as a by-product of cleaning processes. Today, pharmaceutical products have become a serious problem to the aquatic environment. More specifically, when antibiotics end up making their way into the environment with the discharged wastewater, this really can pose a serious threat. This is due to the fact that highly dangerous, multi-resistant bacteria can be generated in this environment and subsequently transported all over the world.
With the above in mind, technologies are required that treat the arising wastewater and eliminate these APIs before they are discharged into the environment. It is also essential to ensure that the APIs are not simply separated from the wastewater (by means of a membrane process or activated carbon, for example), as this will only shift the problem elsewhere. Ultimately, what is needed is a technology to destroy the APIs.