Pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment – the journey from the toilet to the world
The occurrence of organic micropollutants such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the aquatic environment are of increasing concern due to their negative impact to aquatic organisms. Furthermore, organic micropollutants can be major drivers of ecological changes, resulting in degraded ecological systems, loss of ecological services and potential concerns to public health. In my lecture, I will focus mainly on PPCPs, which comprise a diverse group of more than 4000 different chemicals with different physical-chemical and biological properties and distinct modes of biochemical action.
PPCPs are extensively and increasingly being used in human and veterinary medicine as well as consumer products. After usage, these compounds can be released to wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in their original or metabolite (transformed) form. However, it has been estimated that conventional WWTPs remove only 20-30% of these PPCPs and the remaining compounds are released into the aquatic environment. As a consequence, PPCPs have been ubiquitously found in groundwater, surface water, drinking water, municipal sewage sludge, and biota (fish and other aquatic organisms) across the globe. Identification and determination of PPCPs and their transformation products at environmentally relevant levels are important to understand their metabolism, excretion patterns, dispersion, mobility, and persistence under environmental conditions (biotic and abiotic degradability).
The fate of PPCPs in the environment is dependent on a range of factors, including physical-chemical properties, usage patterns, and amenability to degrade in WWTPs. Once released into the environment, other factors influence the fate of these compounds, including degradation and sorption to components of the aquatic and soil environment, and environmental factors such as pH and climate. Pharmaceuticals are designed to have a specific mode of action and many of them undergo changes in the body. These features among others make them to be evaluated for potential effects on aquatic flora and fauna.
The aim of my research is to increase our knowledge of sources, fate, transformation and effects of PPCPs in the aquatic environment and investigation of their impact on exposed organisms. Hereby, my research is interdisciplinary and performed in collaboration with different specialists such as toxicologists, biologists and ecologists. In this talk, I will present my work on the sources, occurrence, fate and the effects of PPCPs in different environmental matrices such as wastewater, surface water, sediments, biota and plants.