Effects of Pharmaceuticals in the Environment
Joanne Parrott, Mark McMaster, Gerald Tetreault
Environment Canada, Canada

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) have been detected at very low concentrations in municipal wastewater effluents (MWWEs) and rivers in North America and Europe. Pharmaceutical drugs are designed to have therapeutic (biological) effects and have been well researched in mammals; however effects on non-target organisms are less studied. Little is known about the environmental persistence and fate of most PPCPs, and since aquatic organisms are chronically exposed to these compounds, there is potential for multigenerational exposure. Review of the literature and some recent research suggest possible effects in fish exposed to some of these compounds. Effects in fish exposed to low concentrations (low ug/L or below) are overviewed for several PPCPs: antidepressants (fluoxetine, fluvoxamine), an anti-inflammatory (diclofenac), and a synthetic hormone (ethinylestradiol). These laboratory data and thresholds for effects are compared to monitoring data for these compounds in effluents, rivers and waters of the Great Lakes. The review suggests that some of these PPCPs appear to cause effects in aquatic organisms exposed in the laboratory at concentrations of low ng/L to low ug/L, and that some MWWEs in the Great Lakes discharge concentrations of PPCPs within these ranges. Thresholds for effects of synthetic estrogen are very low (ng/L), while other PPCPs have higher thresholds (ug/L and above) for effects in fish and invertebrates. There is some evidence of effects with fish exposure to MWWEs in the lab, and several instances of feminization of fish in rivers in Canada and the United States. To put these data into context we require more field studies of fish living in receiving waters downstream of MWWEs.

Keywords: Pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruption, reproduction, Municipal Wastewater Effluents

Biography: Joanne Parrott completed her Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, in 1993. Since then she has been a Research Scientist with Environment Canada in Burlington, Ontario. Dr. Parrott's research examines the effects of toxicants on fish health, development and reproduction. She is the Directorate's lead for Pharmaceuticals and she represents Environment Canada on OECD Committees for the development and validation of fish tests for endocrine disrupting chemicals. She has published over 60 manuscripts and book chapters.