Occurrence and Fate of Substituted p-Phenylenediamine-Derived Quinones in Hong Kong Wastewater Treatment Plants

Guodong Cao, Wei Wang, Jing Zhang, Pengfei Wu, Han Qiao, Huankai Li, Gefei Huang, Zhu Yang, Zongwei Cai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


para-Phenylenediamine quinones (PPD-Qs) are a newly discovered class of transformation products derived from para-phenylenediamine (PPD) antioxidants. These compounds are prevalent in runoff, roadside soil, and particulate matter. One compound among these, N-1,3-dimethylbutyl-n'-phenyl-p-phenylenediamine quinone (6PPD-Q), was found to induce acute mortality of coho salmon, rainbow trout, and brook trout, with the median lethal concentrations even lower than its appearance in the surface and receiving water system. However, there was limited knowledge about the occurrence and fate of these emerging environmental contaminants in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), which is crucial for effective pollutant removal via municipal wastewater networks. In the current study, we performed a comprehensive investigation of a suite of PPD-Qs along with their parent compounds across the influent, effluent, and biosolids during each processing unit in four typical WWTPs in Hong Kong. The total concentrations of PPDs and PPD-Qs in the influent were determined to be 2.7-90 and 14-830 ng/L. In the effluent, their concentrations decreased to 0.59-40 and 2.8-140 ng/L, respectively. The median removal efficiency for PPD-Qs varied between 53.0 and 91.0% across the WWTPs, indicating that a considerable proportion of these contaminants may not be fully eliminated through the current processing technology. Mass flow analyses revealed that relatively higher levels of PPD-Qs were retained in the sewage sludge (20.0%) rather than in the wastewater (16.9%). In comparison to PPDs, PPD-Qs with higher half-lives exhibited higher release levels via effluent wastewater, which raises particular concerns about their environmental consequences to aquatic ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15635-15643
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number41
Early online date5 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

User-Defined Keywords

  • mass balance
  • para-phenylenediamines
  • removal efficiency
  • rubber-derived quinones
  • wastewater treatment plants


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