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Biomedical and Environmental Process Engineering

Using pharmaceuticals is a fundamental component in modern medicine today. Currently there are approximately 8,500 preparations with about 2,900 different active agents circulating in the pharmaceutical market. Just in human medicine 30,000 t of active agents are put into circulation in Germany each year, according to recent studies. Active agents of applied and naturally egested as well as of improperly disposed pharmaceuticals (disposal of drugs via toilet/sink) end up in municipal sewage plants via the municipal sewer system. The elimination of these mainly persistent substances within sewage plants is rather inefficient. Therefore these substances partly enter aquatic ecosystems (lakes, rivers, ground water) with the treated wastewater from the sewage plant effluent. In this way those substances, which are often environmentally relevant, reach drinking water via drinking water abstraction and hence they end up in the food chain. Still there is deficient knowledge about long term consequences for humans, aquatic communities and ecosystems of these feeds, despite of increased efforts of research in this field since the 70’s.

Due to its special structure in staff the institute of Medical Biotechnology is able to bundle competences from environmental engineering, medicine and chemistry. Therefore innovative solutions for the elimination of pharmaceutical substances from aquatic systems will be achieved. The main focus is on municipal wastewaters (sewage plants). Different modular cleaning techniques are developed for pharmaceutical substances in municipal wastewaters, using high quality, sensitive (trace-) analytics (HPLC/MS-MS). Those cleaning techniques are to be characterized by a high selectivity to certain groups of pharmaceutical substances, economic feasibility, reliability and robustness.