New publication in Water Research: Anthropogenic gadolinium in freshwater and drinking water systems


How to prevent the contamination of drinking water with MRT contrast agents? Gadolinium is used in contrast media during MRI examinations and is discharged into the sewage system via the patients' urine. As a result, river water and thus drinking water obtained from rivers or bank filtrate are contaminated with gadolinium. The water suppliers are thus faced with a problem that they neither caused nor can solve on their own. Thilo Hofmann and Robert Brünjes from the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science have suggestions on how to prevent gadolinium contamination of water bodies and drinking water. The solution: The urine of MRI patients must be collected for at least 24 hours. In practice, it is possible to collect the urine with dry absorbers. Gadolinium can be extracted from the collected urine and reused. In this way, the mining of gadolinium, which takes place through aggressive leaching of rare earth elements, is gradually reduced.

Due to the changeover of hospital operations during COVID-19, many routine examinations were no longer carried out and the number of MRI examinations drastically decreased - and with it the gadolinium input into our waters. We can use this signal in order to better understand the complex relationship between river water, wastewater, and drinking water.