Removal of emerging contaminants of concern by alternative adsorbents

Alfred Rossner, Shane A. Snyder, Detlef R.U. Knappe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

255 Scopus citations


The effective removal of emerging contaminants of concern (ECCs) such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, pharmaceutically active compounds, personal care products, and flame retardants is a desirable water treatment goal. In this study, one activated carbon, one carbonaceous resin, and two high-silica zeolites were studied to evaluate their effectiveness for the removal of an ECC mixture from lake water. Adsorption isotherm experiments were performed with a mixture of 28 ECCs at environmentally relevant concentrations (∼200-900 ng/L). Among the tested adsorbents, activated carbon was the most effective, and activated carbon doses typically used for taste and odor control in drinking water (<10 mg/L) were sufficient to achieve a 2-log removal for most of the tested ECCs. The carbonaceous resin was less effective than the activated carbon because this adsorbent had a smaller volume of pores in the size range required for the adsorption of many ECCs (∼6-9 Å). For the removal of ECC mixture constituents, zeolites were less effective than the carbonaceous adsorbents. Because zeolites contain pores of uniform size and shape, a few of the tested ECCs with matching pore size/shape requirements were well removed, but the adsorptive removal of others was negligible, even at zeolite doses of 100 mg/L. The results of this study demonstrate that effective adsorbents for the removal of a broad spectrum of ECCs from water should exhibit heterogeneity in pore size and shape and a large pore volume in the 6-9 Å size range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3787-3796
Number of pages10
JournalWater research
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Activated carbon
  • Adsorption
  • Drinking water treatment
  • Emerging contaminants
  • Zeolites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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