Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

How efficient are constructed wetlands in removing pharmaceuticals from untreated and treated urban wastewater? A review.

By Verlicchi P. and Zambello E.


This review presents and discusses the data from 47 peer-reviewed journal articles on the occurrence of 137 pharmaceutical compounds in the effluent from various types of constructed wetlands treating urban wastewater. We analyse the observed removal efficiencies of the investigated compounds in order to identify the type of constructed wetland that best removes those most frequently detected. The literature reviewed details experimental investigations carried out on 136 treatment plants, including free water surface systems, as well as horizontal and vertical subsurface flow beds (pilot or full-scale) acting as primary, secondary or tertiary treatments. The occurrence of selected pharmaceuticals in sediments and gravel and their uptake by common macrophytes are also presented and discussed. We analyse the main removal mechanisms for the selected compounds and investigate the influence of the main design parameters, as well as operational and environmental conditions of the treatment systems on removal efficiency. We also report on previous attempts to correlate observed removal values with the chemical structure and chemical-physical properties (mainly pKa and LogKow) of pharmaceutical compounds. We then use the literature data to calculate the average pharmaceutical mass loadings in the effluent from constructed wetlands, comparing the ability of such systems to remove selected pharmaceuticals with the corresponding conventional secondary and tertiary treatments. Finally, the environmental risk posed by pharmaceutical residues in effluents from constructed wetlands acting as secondary and tertiary treatment steps is calculated in the form of the risk quotient ratio. This approach enabled us to provide a ranking of the most critical compounds for the two scenarios, to discuss the ramifications of the adoption of constructed wetlands for removing such persistent organic compounds, and to propose avenues of future research

Topics: constructed wetlands, environmental risk assessment, municipal wastewater, pharmaceuticals, removal efficiencies, review
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.10.085
OAI identifier:
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • (external link)
  • Suggested articles

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.