Adsorption of sulfamethoxazole and sulfapyridine antibiotics in high organic content soils

Kuen Lin Chen, Li Chun Liu, Wan Ru Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Citations (Scopus)


Many antibiotics, including sulfonamides, are being frequently detected in soil and groundwater. Livestock waste is an important source of antibiotic pollution, and sulfonamides may be present along with organic-rich substances. This study aims to investigate the sorption reaction of two sulfonamides, sulfamethoxazole (SMZ) and sulfapyridine (SPY) in two organic-rich sorbents: a commercial peat soil (38.41% carbon content) and a composted manure (24.33% carbon content). Batch reactions were conducted to evaluate the impacts of pH (4.5–9.5) and background ions (0.001 M–0.1 M CaCl2) on their sorption. Both linear partitioning and Freundlich sorption isotherms fit the reaction well. The n values of Freundlich isotherm were close to 1 in most conditions suggesting that the hydrophobic partition is the major adsorption mechanism. In terms of SMZ, Kd declined with increases in the pH. SPY has a pyridine group that is responsible for adsorption at high pH values, and thus, no significant trend between Kd and pH was observed. At high pH ranges, SPY sorption deviated significantly from linear partitioning. The results suggested the sorption mechanism of these two sulfonamide antibiotics tended to be hydrophobic partitioning under most of the experimental conditions, especially at pH values lower than their corresponding pKa2. The fluorescence excitation emission matrix and dissolved organic carbon leaching test suggested composted manure has higher fulvic acid organics and that peat soil has higher humus-like organics. Small organic molecules showed stronger affinity toward sulfonamide antibiotics and cause the composted manure to exhibit higher sorption capacity. Overall, this study suggests that the chemical structure and properties of sulfonamides antibiotics and the type of organic matter in soils will greatly influence the fate and transport of these contaminants into the environment. The main adsorption mechanism of sulfonamide antibiotics in organic-rich soils is hydrophobic partition under environmental relevant conditions. The major adsorption species of sulfonamides is the neutral species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1163-1171
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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