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Risk-based prioritization of pharmaceuticals in the natural environment in Iraq

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JournalEnvironmental science and pollution research
DateAccepted/In press - 10 Apr 2016
DatePublished (current) - 30 Apr 2016
Issue number15
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)15712–15726
Original languageEnglish


Numerous studies have demonstrated the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in the natural environment, raising concerns about their impact on non-target organisms or human health. One region where little is known about the exposure and effects of pharmaceuticals in the environment is Iraq. Due to the high number of pharmaceuticals used by the public health sector in Iraq (hospitals and care centres) and distributed over the counter, there is a need for a systematic approach for identifying substances that should be monitored in the environment in Iraq and assessed in terms of environmental risk. In this study, a risk-based prioritization approach was applied to 99 of the most dispensed pharmaceuticals in three Iraqi cities, Baghdad, Mosul and Basrah. Initially, information on the amounts of pharmaceuticals used in Iraq was obtained. The top used medicines were found to be paracetamol, amoxicillin and metformin with total annual consumption exceeding 1000 tonnes per year. Predicted environmental concentrations (PECs) and predicted no-effect concentrations (PNECs), derived from ecotoxicological end-points and effects related to the therapeutic mode of action, were then used to rank the pharmaceuticals in terms of risks to different environmental compartments. Active pharmaceutical ingredients used as antibiotics, antidepressants and analgesics were identified as the highest priority in surface water, sediment and the terrestrial environment. Antibiotics were also prioritized according to their susceptibility to kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria or to accelerate the evolution and dissemination of antibiotic-resistant genes in water. Future work will focus on understanding the occurrence, fate and effects of some of highly prioritized substances in the environment.

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© 2016, The authors.

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