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Water Supply Vol 3 No 3 pp 155–160 © IWA Publishing 2003

Membrane filtration in water recycling: removal of natural hormones

L.D. Nghiem*, A.I. Schäfer** and T.D. Waite***

*Centre for Water and Waste Technology, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of NSW, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia
**Centre for Water and Waste Technology, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of NSW, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia (E-mail: a.schaefer@unsw.edu.au)
***Centre for Water and Waste Technology, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of NSW, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia


ABSTRACT
Recent detections of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in effluent are of great concern to sections of the community associated with the issue of water recycling. In vitro and in vivo studies by many researchers have confirmed the impacts of EDCs on trout at the common concentration encountered in sewage effluent. Amongst many types of EDCs the impacts of steroid estrogens such as estrone, estradiol (natural hormones) and ethinylestradiol (a synthetic hormone) are prominent as they have far higher endocrine-disrupting potency than other synthetic EDCs. Given the continuous developments in membrane technology, tertiary treatment using membrane processes has been identified as a promising technology to provide a safeguard to water recycling practice and to protect the environment. This paper investigates retention and adsorptive behavior of the natural hormones estrone and estradiol by two commercial low-pressure nanofiltration membranes TFC-SR2 and TFC-S, using dead end stirred cell systems. The removal phenomena of estradiol are similar to that of estrone. pH has been found to significantly influence the adsorption of estrone and estradiol by the membranes, presumably due to hydrogen bonding. This adsorption is critical in the risk of possible release of such hormones to the product waters. Total adsorbed amounts were calculated for standard membrane elements and are indeed important.

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