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Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are contaminating natural bodies of water and are problematic for aquatic organisms and ecosystems. Generally, PPCPs are introduced to water systems due to incomplete removal by wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). As such, it is vital to find ways to remediate these problematic contaminants before they are discharged into the environment. In this study, two photocatalysts¾titanium dioxide (TiO2) and bismuth oxychloride (BiOCl)¾were compared to determine their relative efficiencies (degradation rates) and dominant degradation mechanism (hydroxyl radical production or direct oxidation) with the goal of photocatalytically degrading two pharmaceuticals, atenolol and ibuprofen, using UV (254 nm) light. While TiO2 has been used extensively for photocatalytic degradation, BiOCl is a newer photocatalyst. The two pharmaceuticals selected for study represent two large classes of drugs (aryloxypropanolamine and propionic acid derivatives, respectively) that have been detected in the influent into and effluent from wastewater treatment plants and in the environment. When irradiated at 254 nm, BiOCl degrades ibuprofen with a rate constant 15 times greater than TiO2. On the other hand, TiO2 degrades atenolol with a rate constant 2.2 times greater than BiOCl. LCMS analysis of photodegradation products reveals different products produced by the two photocatalysts, providing evidence for the dominance of different degradation mechanisms for the two photocatalysts. In summary, this work suggests that BiOCl, potentially used in combination with TiO2, holds potential for degrading PPCPs in natural bodies of water.
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