Over the last couple of decades, pharmaceutical products have been repeatedly found in environmental waters and even in drinking water. Although the effects of pharmaceuticals when ingested as medicine are well studied, the continuous ingestion of trace concentrations in water by the general population, or the effects for wildlife (e.g. fish), are only recently the subject of scientific research. This project addresses some of the knowledge gaps for this subject, targeting two specific compound groups: antibiotics, and anti-cancer (cytostatic) drugs.
There are good reasons for thinking that these two classes of human pharmaceuticals could be of particular concern. In the FP7 PHARMAS project, a consortium of world-class scientists from both academia and industry has been assembled to assess the risks to wild animals and humans posed by environmental exposure to pharmaceuticals. Their expertise will be supplemented by an advisory group consisting of representatives of all stakeholders.
In order to conduct sound risk assessments, including providing estimates of uncertainty, it will be necessary to obtain accurate data on both exposure concentrations and effects levels. Hence, new data on both environmental concentrations and effects on aquatic organisms will be produced during the project. The comparative sensitivities of embryos and adults will be determined, and used to reduce uncertainty in the risk assessments. The stable transformation products of the selected pharmaceuticals will also be investigated. All stakeholders and beneficiaries will be represented in the project, so that results are rapidly and reliably transferred to all interested parties.
A prototype web-based classification system will be developed during the project with the intention of enabling all EU citizens to make their own informed decisions about the risk posed by human pharmaceuticals to their health and to the health of the environment. Ecologic Institute is involved in determining the information requirements of different stakeholders for this web-based classification system (WP6), as well as in establishing the link with policy processes and the dissemination of project results (WP7). The results will able EU regulators and policy makers to make better informed decisions on the issue of pharmaceuticals in the environment.