Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Aquatic Environment: How Can Regions at Risk be Identified in the Future?

John L Wilkinson*, Ian Thornhill, Rik Oldenkamp, Anthony Gachanja, Rosa Busquets

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are an indispensable component of a healthy society. However, they are well established environmental contaminants, and many can elicit biological disruption in exposed organisms. It is now a decade since the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) published its landmark review of PPCPs in the environment (Boxall et al., 2012). Here we discuss key research priorities for the next 10 years with an aim on how regions where PPCPs pose the greatest risk to environmental and human health, either now or in the future, can be identified. Specifically, we discuss why this problem is of importance and review our current understanding of PPCPs in the aquatic environment. Foci include PPCP occurrence and what drives their environmental emission as well as our ability to both quantify and model their distribution. We highlight critical areas for future research including the involvement of citizen science for environmental monitoring and using modelling techniques to bridge the gap between research capacity and needs. As prioritisation of regions in need of environmental monitoring is needed to assess future/current risk, we also propose four criteria with which this may be achieved. Applying these criteria to available monitoring data we narrow the focus on where monitoring efforts for PPCPs are most urgent. Specifically, 19 cities across Africa, Central America, the Caribbean, and Asia were highlighted as priorities for future environmental monitoring and risk characterisation. Together, this informs our suggestion of four priority research questions for the next 10 years.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Oct 2023

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