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The effects of pharmaceuticals on the nitrogen cycle in water and soil have recently become an increasingly important issue for environmental research. However, a few studies have investigated the direct effects of pharmaceuticals on the nitrogen cycle in water and soil. Pharmaceuticals can contribute to inhibition and stimulation of nitrogen cycle processes in the environment. Some pharmaceuticals have no observable effect on the nitrogen cycle in water and soil while others appeared to inhibit or stimulate for it. This review reports on the most recent evidence of effects of pharmaceuticals on the nitrogen cycle processes by examination of the potential impact of pharmaceuticals on nitrogen fixation, nitrification, ammonification, denitrification, and anammox. Research studies have identified pharmaceuticals that can either inhibit or stimulate nitrification, ammonification, denitrification, and anammox. Among these, amoxicillin, chlortetracycline, ciprofloxacin, clarithromycin, enrofloxacin, erythromycin, narasin, norfloxacin, and sulfamethazine had the most significant effects on nitrogen cycle processes. This review also clearly demonstrates that some nitrogen transformation processes such as nitrification show much higher sensitivity to the presence of pharmaceuticals than other nitrogen transformations or flows such as mineralization or ammonia volatilization. We conclude by suggesting that future studies take a more comprehensive approach to report on pharmaceuticals’ impact on the nitrogen cycle process.
- Nitrogen transformation