The photodegradation process of seven glucocorticoids (GCs), cortisone (CORT), hydrocortisone (HCORT), betamethasone (BETA), dexamethasone (DEXA), prednisone (PRED), prednisolone (PREDLO) and triamcinolone (TRIAM) was studied in tap and river water at a concentration close to the environmental ones. All drugs underwent sunlight degradation according to a pseudo-first-order decay. The kinetic constants ranged from 0.00082 min−1 for CORT to 0.024 min−1 for PRED and PREDLO. The photo-generated products were identified by high-pressure liquid chromatography coupled to electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-ESI-MS/MS). The main steps of the degradation pathways were the oxidative cleavage of the chain 17 for CORT, HCORT and the rearrangement of the cyclohexadiene moiety for the other GCs. The acute and chronic toxicity of GCs and of their photoproducts was assessed by the V. fischeri and P. subcapitata inhibition assays. The bioassays revealed no significant differences in toxicity between the parent compounds and their photoproducts, but the two organisms showed different responses. All samples produced a moderate acute toxic effect on V. fisheri and no one in the chronic tests. On the contrary, evident hormesis or eutrophic effect was produced on the algae, especially for long-term contact.
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