Diclofenac removal in urine using strong-base anion exchange polymer resins

Kelly A. Landry, Treavor H. Boyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


One of the major sources of pharmaceuticals in the environment is wastewater effluent of which human urine contributes the majority of pharmaceuticals. Urine source separation has the potential to isolate pharmaceuticals at a higher concentration for efficient removal as well as produce a nutrient byproduct. This research investigated the efficacy of using strong-base anion exchange polymer resins to remove the widely detected and abundant pharmaceutical, diclofenac, from synthetic human urine under fresh and ureolyzed conditions. The majority of experiments were conducted using a strong-base, macroporous, polystyrene resin (Purolite A520E). Ion-exchange followed a two-step removal rate with rapid removal in 1h and equilibrium removal in 24h. Diclofenac removal was >90% at a resin dose of 8mL/L in both fresh and ureolyzed urine. Sorption of diclofenac onto A520E resin was concurrent with desorption of an equivalent amount of chloride, which indicates the ion-exchange mechanism is occurring. The presence of competing ions such as phosphate and citrate did not significantly impact diclofenac removal. Comparisons of three polystyrene resins (A520E, Dowex 22, Dowex Marathon 11) as well as one polyacrylic resin (IRA958) were conducted to determine the major interactions between anion exchange resin and diclofenac. The results showed that polystyrene resins provide the highest level of diclofenac removal due to electrostatic interactions between quaternary ammonium functional groups of resin and carboxylic acid of diclofenac and non-electrostatic interactions between resin matrix and benzene rings of diclofenac. Diclofenac was effectively desorbed from A520E resin using a regeneration solution that contained 4.5% (m/m) NaCl in an equal-volume mixture of methanol and water. The greater regeneration efficiency of the NaCl/methanol-water mixture over the aqueous NaCl solution supports the importance of non-electrostatic interactions between resin matrix and benzene rings of diclofenac. Experiments with ketoprofen, in addition to diclofenac, suggest that polystyrene anion exchange resins can be used to selectively remove other acidic pharmaceuticals from urine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6432-6444
Number of pages13
JournalWater Research
Issue number17
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Electrostatic interactions
  • Ion-exchange
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Sorption
  • Urine source separation
  • Van der Waals forces

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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