Organic Contaminants in Chinese Sewage Sludge: A Meta-Analysis of the Literature of the Past 30 Years

Xiang Zhou Meng, Arjun K. Venkatesan, Yi Lin Ni, Joshua C. Steele, Ling Ling Wu, Anders Bignert, Åke Bergman, Rolf U. Halden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


The production of sewage sludge is increasing in China but with unsafe disposal practices, causing potential risk to human health and the environment. Using literature from the past 30 years (N = 159), we conducted a meta-analysis of organic contaminants (OCs) in Chinese sludge. Most data were available from developed and populated regions, and no data were found for Tibet. Since 1987, 35 classes of chemicals consisting of 749 individual compounds and 1 mixture have been analyzed, in which antibiotics and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were the most targeted analytes. For 13 classes of principal OCs (defined as chemicals detected in over five studies) in sludge, the median (expressed in nanograms per gram dry weight) was the highest for phthalate esters (27 900), followed by alkylphenol polyethoxylates (12 000), synthetic musks (5800), antibiotics (4240), PAHs (3490), ultraviolet stabilizers (670), bisphenol analogs (160), organochlorine pesticides (110), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (100), pharmaceuticals (84), hormones (69), perfluorinated compounds (21), and polychlorinated biphenyls (15). Concentrations of PAHs in sludges collected between 1998 and 2012 showed a decreasing trend. Study findings suggest the need for a Chinese national sewage sludge survey to identify and regulate toxic OCs, ideally employing both targeted as well as nontargeted screening approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5454-5466
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 7 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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