The potential of chlorine dioxide (ClO2) for the oxidation of pharmaceuticals during water treatment was assessed by determining second-order rate constants for the reaction with selected environmentally relevant pharmaceuticals. Out of 9 pharmaceuticals only the 4 following compounds showed an appreciable reactivity with ClO2 (in brackets apparent second-order rate constants at pH 7 and T = 20 degrees C): the sulfonamide antibiotic sulfamethoxazole (6.7 x 10(3) M-1 s(-1)), the macrolide antibiotic roxithromycin (2.2 x 10(2) M-1 s(-1)), the estrogen 17 alpha-ethinylestradiol (similar to 2 x 10(5) M-1 s(-1)), and the antiphlogistic diclofenac (1.05 x 10(4) M-1 s(-1)). Experiments performed using natural water showed that ClO2 also reacted fast with other sulfonamides and macrolides, the natural hormones estrone and 17 beta-estradiol as well as 3 pyrazolone derivatives (phenazone, propylphenazone, and dimethylaminophenazone). However, many compounds in the study were ClO2 refractive. Experiments with lake water and groundwater that were partly performed at microgram/L to nanogram/L levels proved that the rate constants determined in pure water could be applied to predict the oxidation of pharmaceuticals in natural waters. Compared to ozone, ClO2 reacted more slowly and with fewer compounds. However, it reacted faster with the investigated compounds than chlorine. Overall, the results indicate that ClO2 Will only be effective to oxidize certain compound classes such as the investigated classes of sulfonamide and macrolide antibiotics, and estrogens. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.