Buglife Report: Pharmaceuticals in Freshwater Environments…

The most recent publication by Buglife (a UK-based charity) focuses on pharmaceuticals in freshwater environments and their potential effects on freshwater invertebrates.

This report highlights:

  1. The need to protect freshwater environments, which are vital and interconnected habitats “inextricably linked to terrestrial ecosystems”. These habitats are threatened by pollution from pharmaceuticals (and other contaminants).
  2. The sources (e.g., WWTPs, sewer overflows, field run-off) and sinks (e.g., sediment, ground water, marine environments) of pharmaceuticals in the environment.
  3. Interactions with invertebrates and the lack of standardised and characterised end-point effects at environmentally relevant concentrations; as well as variations in observed effects based on species, multiple drug exposure, and surface water conditions.
  4. Consolidated data from the UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) Chemical Investigation Programme (CIP2) and CIP2 Scotland, which reported freshwater concentrations of pharmaceuticals which exceed Predicted No Effect Concentrations (PNECs) or Environmental Quality Standards (EQS). This was most commonly observed for ibuprofen, diclofenac, and estrogen hormones, and generally near “high-risk” settings (e.g., down-stream of WWTPs).
  5. A review of literature and the CIP2 and CIP2 Scotland programmes, and identification of the pharmaceuticals of most concern:
    • Ibuprofen and Diclofenac – non-steroidal anti-inflammatories drugs
    • Carbamazepine – anti-epileptic drug
    • Fluoxetine and Venlafaxine – antidepressants
  6. Recommendations for further monitoring work and evaluations of environmental risk of pharmaceuticals to inform updated Environmental Risk Assessments, in consideration of the Water Framework Directive and UKWIR CIP regulatory work.

The work of the One Health Breakthrough Partnership is highlighted under the recommendations, as the group is focussed on up-stream interventions to sustainably reduce the number of pharmaceuticals entering WWTPs (and subsequently the environment). The report includes actions against increasing public awareness on correct medicine stewardship (usage and disposal), regulating drugs with the highest environmental impact, and reducing unnecessary prescription or using appropriate alternatives through blue and green-social prescribing (for example).

Steering group member Bess Homer (Scottish Water) contributed data from CIP2 Scotland dataset to the Buglife report, and assisted with interpretating data and including the OHBP work.

You can find out more about Buglife here: https://www.buglife.org.uk/

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