Sustainable adsorbents for the removal of pharmaceuticals from wastewater: A review

Vignesh Vinayagam, Shrima Murugan, Rishikeswaran Kumaresan, Meyyappan Narayanan, Mika Sillanpää, Dai Viet N Vo, Omkar Singh Kushwaha, Ponraj Jenis, Pratik Potdar, Shreyans Gadiya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Over the previous three decades, the worldwide use of pharmaceuticals has surged by more than 2.5 times. Although being considered essential to save many lives, pharmaceuticals have also emerged as a large source of complex environmental contaminants in recent decades. Consequently, the pharmaceuticals and their breakdown products are ending up into the water bodies thus progressively contaminating them and the surrounding environments. Based on recent studies concentrations in water sources are typically >0.1 μg/l and the concentration in treated water is typically >0.05 μg/l. These pharma drugs are removed from aquatic systems by processes such as oxidation, Ultraviolet degradation, reverse osmosis and nano-filtration. However, hazardous sludge creation, incomplete removal, expensive capital and operating costs, and the need for professional operating and maintenance personnel have all limited the economic sustainability of these systems. As a result, the presence of pharmaceuticals in water necessitates even more advanced technologies of purification to harvest clean water, yet present approaches are constrained by their high costs, low reusability, and disposal issues. Here, we review sustainable adsorbents for the removal of pharmaceuticals from wastewater. In this comprehensive review, an evaluation of water contamination caused by pharmaceutical compounds is discussed. An overview of current research on the employment of sustainable adsorbents for the removal of the major pharmaceuticals prevalent in water sources. Numerous aspects of high adsorption efficiencies of these pharmaceutical compounds with such sustainable adsorbents were observed; however, other factors, such as adsorbent regeneration and cost evaluation, must be taken into account in order to assess the true applicability of adsorbents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134597
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Adsorption
  • Decontamination
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Pharmaceutical removal
  • Sustainable adsorbents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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