Uptake of Pharmaceuticals by Crops: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

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Studies on the uptake of pharmaceuticals from soils into crops were first conducted in the 2000s. Since then a wealth of such data has been generated, but to the best of our knowledge, these studies have not been systematically reviewed. We present a quantitative, systematic review of empirical data on the uptake of pharmaceuticals into crops. We developed a custom-made relational database on plant uptake of pharmaceuticals that contained details of the experimental design and associated results from 150 articles, spanning 173 pharmaceuticals, 78 study crops, and 8048 unique measurements. Analysis of the data in the database showed clear trends in experimental design, with lettuce being the most studied crop and carbamazepine and sulfamethoxazole being the most studied pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical properties were found to create the greatest range in uptake concentrations of any single variable studied. Uptake concentrations were also found to vary between crops, with relatively high uptake concentrations identified in cress, lettuce, rice, and courgette crops. An understanding of the influence of soil properties on pharmaceutical uptake was limited by a lack of information on key soil properties across the published literature. The data comparisons were inhibited by differences in quality of the different studies. Moving forward, a framework for best practice in this field is needed to maximize the value and further applications of the data produced. Environ Toxicol Chem 2023;00:1–14. © 2023 The Authors. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of SETAC.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Early online date21 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Authors


  • Soil contamination
  • Plants
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Bioavailability

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