Removal of endocrine disruptors by activated carbons and Hypersol-Macronet hypercrosslinked polymeric adsorbents

2011-01-13T10:14:31Z (GMT) by Eleni Karounou
The normal operation of the endocrine (hormonal) system can be disrupted by a number of man-made and naturally-occurring chemicals, thereby affecting those physiological processes that are under hormonal control. Such substances are called endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs). The endocrine disruption issue has alarmed the environmental authorities since the substances involved can hinder hormonal processes causing far-reaching effects on reproduction and development in current and future human and wildlife generations. Effects on some species of fish triggered worldwide concern and initiated a research scheme which is being undertaken by various organisations e.g. United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), United Kingdom Environment Agency (UKEA), Oslo and Paris Commission (OSPAR), Japan Environment Agency (JEA) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in order to assess the effects (present and potential), point of generation, levels of contamination and exposure limits. The findings showed that most of the oestrogens are produced by humans and animals and get discharged into river streams mainly through sewage effluents. Fish in particular have been found to be affected the most even when the oestrogenic levels in water are very low. The probability of future European legislation to eliminate hormonally active compounds from wastewaters suggests that new and alternative methods should be developed for their removal. In this work, the adsorption of 17ß-oestradiol (E2) and 17a-ethinyl oestradiol (EE2) onto several granular activated carbons and Hypersol-Macronet hypercrosslinked polymers was investigated by batch experiments after a low level detection system had been developed using Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS). Equilibrium experiments were carried out for all adsorbents to quantify the sorption capacity for E2 and EE2. For better assessment of the sorbents performance, their physical properties such as surface area, average pore diameter and micropore volume and chemical structure were characterised by N2 adsorption experiments, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), FTIR spectroscopy, elemental analysis, sodium capacity determination, pH titration, proton binding curves and zeta potential measurements. Adsorption isotherm data were fitted to the Langmuir and Freundlich equations. Activated carbons were found to be preferable to Hypersol-Macronet hypercrosslinked polymers for adsorption purposes. The adsorption of oestrogens appears to be controlled by hydrophobic interactions. Kinetic experiments were performed with different size ranges of adsorbents at different concentrations and the results were analysed by a particle diffusion model. It was found that concentration did not seem to influence the kinetics of the oestrogen sorption whereas the particle size of the adsorbents influenced the adsorption rate of both molecules. The particle diffusion model seemed to fit the data collected for the adsorption rate of 17B-oestradiool onto the adsorbents but gave a poor fit for most of the data collected for 17a-ethinyl oestradiol.