Antibiotic residues in substrates and output materials from biogas plants – Implications for agriculture
Bio-based fertilizers including farmyard manure, sewage sludge, meat and bone meal, composts, digestates and derived products are nutrient-rich fertilizers. They deliver organic matter but may pose the risk to contaminate soils by pollutants such as pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, resistance genes or pathogens. Manure and sewage sludge are increasingly used in biogas plants for energy production with the residue being used as fertilizer. It is therefore important to understand the fate of pharmaceuticals during anaerobic digestion. In the present study, 29 biogas plants from three countries were studied. The different input materials and output after digestion were analyzed for selected examples of antibiotics from three different classes, namely tetracyclines (TCs), sulfonamides (SAs) and fluoroquinolones (FQs). These classes are frequently found in animal manures and sewage sludge and display differing mobility and persistence. The results revealed that antibiotics could be detected in 81% of the substrates derived from animal manures and sewage sludge and in 83% of the digestates. Antibiotics were determined with the highest frequency of 100% in sewage sludge where especially ciprofloxacin and tetracycline were found. Highest concentrations were analyzed in poultry dung with in maximum of 8.6 and 8.2 mg/kg DW of enrofloxacin and tetracycline, respectively. After digestion, slightly lower concentrations of antibiotics were determined for most substrates. However, in one biogas plant using poultry dung as an input material a maximum concentration of 15.2 mg/kg DW of tetracycline was determined in the digestate, which after separation accounted for 29.8 mg/kg DW of tetracycline in the liquid phase.
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