Adsorption and degradation of five selected antibiotics in agricultural soil.
Sci Total Environ. 2016 Mar 1 ;545-546:48-56. Epub 2015 Dec 30. PMID: 26745292
Large quantities of antibiotics are being added to agricultural fields worldwide through the application of wastewater, manures and biosolids, resulting in antibiotic contamination and elevated environmental risks in terrestrial environments. Most studies on the environmental fate of antibiotics focus on aquatic environments or wastewater treatment plants. Little is known about the behavior of antibiotics at environmentally relevant concentrations in agricultural soil. In this study we evaluated the adsorption and degradation of five different antibiotics (tetracycline, sulfamethazine, norfloxacin, erythromycin, and chloramphenicol) in sterilized and non-sterilized agricultural soils under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Adsorption was highest for tetracycline (Kd, 1093 L/kg), while that for sulfamethazine was negligible (Kd, 1.365 L/kg). All five antibiotics were susceptible to microbial degradation under aerobic conditions, with half-lives ranging from 2.9 to 43.3 d in non-sterilized soil and 40.8 to 86.6 d in sterilized soil. Degradation occurred at a higher rate under aerobic conditions but was relatively persistent under anaerobic conditions. For all the antibiotics, a higher initial concentration was found to slow down degradation and prolong persistence in soil. The degradation behavior of the antibiotics varied in relation to their physicochemical properties as well as the microbial activities and aeration of the recipient soil. The poor adsorption and relative persistence of sulfamethazine under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions suggest that it may pose a higher risk to groundwater quality. An equation was proposed to predict the fate of antibiotics in soil under different field conditions, and assess their risks to the environment.