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Occurrences and potential risks of 16 fragrances in five German sewage treatment plants and their receiving waters


Fragrances are used in a wide array of everyday products and enter the aquatic environment via wastewater. While several musk compounds have been studied in detail, little is known about the occurrence and fate of other fragrances. We selected 16 fragrance compounds and scrutinized their presence in Bavarian sewage treatment plants (STP) influents and effluents and discussed their ecological risks for the receiving surface waters. Moreover, we followed their concentrations along the path in one STP by corresponding time-related water sampling and derived the respective elimination rates in the purification process. Six fragrance substances (OTNE, HHCB, lilial, acetyl cedrene, menthol, and, in some grab samples, also methyl-dihydrojasmonate) could be detected in the effluents of the investigated sewage treatment plants. The other fragrances under scrutiny were only found in the inflow and were eliminated in the purification process. Only OTNE and HHCB were found in the receiving surface waters of the STP in congruent concentrations, which exceeded the preliminary derived environmental thresholds by a factor of 1.15 and 1.12, respectively, indicating potential risks. OTNE was also detected in similar concentration ranges as HHCB in muscles and livers of fish from surface waters and from ponds that are supplied with purified wastewater. The findings show that some fragrance compounds undergo high elimination rates, whereas others—not only musks—are present in receiving surface water and biota and may present a risk to local aquatic biota. Hence, our results suggest that the fate and potential effects of fragrance compounds in the aquatic environment deserve more attention.

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Correspondence to Ursula Klaschka.

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Communicated by Hongwen Sun

Responsible editor: Hongwen Sun

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Klaschka, U., von der Ohe, P.C., Bschorer, A. et al. Occurrences and potential risks of 16 fragrances in five German sewage treatment plants and their receiving waters. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20, 2456–2471 (2013).

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  • Environmental risk assessment
  • Fragrances
  • HHCB
  • Micropollutants
  • OTNE
  • Surface water
  • Sewage treatment plant
  • Wastewater