Assessment of the Potential Ecotoxicological Effects of Pharmaceuticals in the World's Rivers

Alejandra Bouzas-Monroy, John L Wilkinson, Molly Melling, Alistair B A Boxall

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During their production, use, and disposal, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are released into aquatic systems. Because they are biologically active molecules, APIs have the potential to adversely affect nontarget organisms. We used the results of a global monitoring study of 61 APIs alongside available ecotoxicological and pharmacological data to assess the potential ecotoxicological effects of APIs in rivers across the world. Approximately 43.5% (461 sites) of the 1052 sampling locations monitored across 104 countries in a recent global study had concentrations of APIs of concern based on apical, nonapical, and mode of action-related endpoints. Approximately 34.1% of the 137 sampling campaigns had at least one location where concentrations were of ecotoxicological concern. Twenty-three APIs occurred at concentrations exceeding "safe" concentrations, including substances from the antidepressant, antimicrobial, antihistamine, β-blocker, anticonvulsant, antihyperglycemic, antimalarial, antifungal, calcium channel blocker, benzodiazepine, painkiller, progestin, and lifestyle compound classes. At the most polluted sites, effects are predicted on different trophic levels and on different endpoint types. Overall, the results show that API pollution is a global problem that is likely negatively affecting the health of the world's rivers. To meet the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, work is urgently needed to tackle the problem and bring concentrations down to an acceptable level. Environ Toxicol Chem 2022;00:1-13. © 2022 The Authors. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of SETAC.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Early online date22 Jun 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jun 2022

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© 2022 The Authors.

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