Pharmaceuticals in Water Essay

Submitted By abenishai
Words: 1783
Pages: 8

Pharmaceuticals in Water

Ethan Wright


Wednesday March 30, 2011

ENSC 201

Word Count: 1624

The presence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in

municipal effluents has raised concern as to the potential impact of pharmaceutical

compounds on human health and the environment. There much information

regarding the health effects of pharmaceuticals at therapeutic levels, but

little information is available on the effects of exposure to PPCPs at sub- therapeutic concentrations. This is largely due to the fact that detected levels of

pharmaceutically active compounds in aquatic environments and municipal water

resources are minute and is reinforced by the belief that existing wastewater

treatment plants (WWTP) are effective at removing pollutants. Difficulties in

targeting specific exposure routes, applying preventative measures, and identifying

pharmaceuticals-of-concern have acted as barriers to a solution. Current scientific

data does not prove that the presences of pharmaceuticals in municipal effluents are

detrimental to human health and the environment. While inherently a health issue,

significant considerations must be given to the political practicality and economics

of applying significant policy initiatives and risk management or mitigation efforts.

Until questions regarding pollution sources, locations, removal methods and

compounds of concern can be solved with supporting scientific evidence; PPCPs

in water will remain an area of civic concern with limited economic or legislative

Pharmaceutically active chemical compounds have knowingly been

released into aquatic environments and municipal drinking water sources for more

than 20 years (Kleywegt et al., 2007). Before a legislative strategy can allocate

economic resources towards reducing the health risk of low concentrations of

pharmaceuticals in water, progress in knowledge gaps for identifying high-source

locations of pollution and detecting pharmaceuticals-of-concern and special interest

must be made. Pharmaceuticals are manufactured for the purpose of causing

biological effects. Wide ranges of human and veterinary medicines, including

antibiotics, contraceptives, antifungals, and parasiticides, are produced and used in

Canada in the thousands of tons each year (Boxall, 2004, 1110). Veterinary

medicines, unlike human medicines (which usually find their way to municipal

waste treatment plants), can directly enter the soil and surface waters thereby

increasing the size and scope of source distribution (Boxall, 2004, 1110). Once

released into the environment, pharmaceuticals are redistributed to aquatic and

terrestrial communities by air, water, and sediment transport (Boxall, 2004; 1112).

Typical routes of entry (see Appendix 1) into the environment include

pharmaceutical residues released during the manufacturing process, human

excretions and waste, direct release, wastewater runoff, inappropriate disposals of

containers, aquatic and terrestrial treatments, and more (Boxall, 2004, 1110). The

sources of pharmaceutical exposure can be broken down into two categories,

industrial and domestic wastes. Domestic pharmaceutical waste constitutes the

largest portion of contaminants in municipal waters with the majority of pollutants

collecting in septic tanks and landfills (Kleywegt et. Al., 2007). While the sources of

PPCP exposure are known, there is currently no legitimate monitoring framework

or removal method for eliminating PPCPs from entering WWTPs and surface water

at the root of the problem – domestic consumption. Without a consistent framework

for analyzing PPCP entry methods including areas of significant concentrations and

details on specific chemical entries from specific entry points, efforts to mediate

potential health effects by directly…