• Soil sorption;
  • Veterinary pharmaceuticals;
  • Soil properties;
  • Modeling;
  • Partial-least-squares regression


Environmental exposure assessment of veterinary pharmaceuticals requires estimating the sorption to soil. Soil sorption coefficients of three common, ionizable, antimicrobial agents (oxytetracycline [OTC], tylosin [TYL], and sulfachloropyridazine [SCP]) were studied in relation to the soil properties of 11 different soils. The soil sorption coefficient at natural pH varied from 950 to 7,200, 10 to 370, and 0.4 to 35 L/kg for OTC, TYL, and SCP, respectively. The variation increased by almost two orders of magnitude for OTC and TYL when pH was artificially adjusted. Separate soil properties (pH, organic carbon content, clay content, cation-exchange capacity, aluminum oxyhydroxide content, and iron oxyhydroxide content) were not able to explain more than half the variation observed in soil sorption coefficients. This reflects the complexity of the sorbent-sorbate interactions. Partial-least-squares (PLS) models, integrating all the soil properties listed above, were able to explain as much as 78% of the variation in sorption coefficients. The PLS model was able to predict the sorption coefficient with an accuracy of a factor of six. Considering the pH-dependent speciation, species-specific PLS models were developed. These models were able to predict species-specific sorption coefficients with an accuracy of a factor of three to four. However, the species-specific sorption models did not improve the estimation of sorption coefficients of species mixtures, because these models were developed with a reduced data set at standardized aqueous concentrations. In conclusion, pragmatic approaches like PLS modeling might be suitable to estimate soil sorption for risk assessment purposes.