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Toxicological and ecotoxicological risk‐based prioritization of pharmaceuticals in the natural environment

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Publication details

JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
DateAccepted/In press - 30 Nov 2015
DateE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jan 2016
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jun 2016
Issue number6
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)1550–1559
Early online date22/01/16
Original languageEnglish


Approximately 1500 active pharmaceutical ingredients are currently in use; however, the environmental occurrence and impacts of only a small proportion of these have been investigated. Recognizing that it would be impractical to monitor and assess all pharmaceuticals that are in use, several previous studies have proposed the use of prioritization approaches to identify substances of most concern so that resources can be focused on these. All of these previous approaches suffer from limitations. In the present study, the authors draw on experience from previous prioritization exercises and present a holistic approach for prioritizing pharmaceuticals in the environment in terms of risks to aquatic and soil organisms, avian and mammalian wildlife, and humans. The approach considers both apical ecotoxicological endpoints as well as potential nonapical effects related to the therapeutic mode of action. Application of the approach is illustrated for 146 active pharmaceuticals that are used either in the community or in hospital settings in the United Kingdom. Using the approach, 16 compounds were identified as a potential priority. These substances include compounds belonging to the antibiotic, antidepressant, anti‐inflammatory, antidiabetic, antiobesity, and estrogen classes as well as associated metabolites. In the future, the prioritization approach should be applied more broadly around the different regions of the world. Environ Toxicol Chem 2016;9999:1–10. © 2016 SETAC

Bibliographical note

© SETAC 2016. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.

    Research areas

  • chemistry, environmental studies

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