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Origins and Ramifications of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment

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Abstract:Perhaps more so than with any other class of pollutants, the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPS) in the environment highlights the immediate, intimate, and inseparable connection between the personal activities of individual citizens and their environment. PPCPS, in contrast to other types of pollutants, owe their origins in the environment directly to their worldwide, universal, frequent, highly dispersed, and individually small but cumulative usage by multitudes of individuals - as opposed to the larger, highly delineated, and more controllable industrial manufacturing/usage of most high- volume synthetic chemicals.

Many PPCPs (as well as their metabolites and transformation products) can enter the environment following ingestion or application by the user or administration to domestic animals. Disposal of unused/expired PPCPs in landfills and in domestic sewage is another route to the environment. The aquatic environment serves as the major, ultimate receptacle for these chemicals, for which little is known with respect to actual or potential adverse effects. Domestic sewage treatment plants are not designed to remove PPCPS, and the efficiencies with which they are removed vary from nearly complete to ineffective. While PPCPs in the environment (or domestic drinking water) are not regulated, and even though their concentrations are extremely low (ng/L-@Lg/L), the consequences of exposure to multiple compounds having different as well as similar modes of action over multiple generations prompts a plethora of questions. While the environmental issues involved with antibiotics and sex steroids are the most widely recognized, numerous other therapeutic and consumer-use classes of PPCPs pose environmental concerns.

U.S. EPA and U.S. FDA are beginning to consider the many scientific issues involved with this multifaceted environmental concern. One of the most frequent questions is "So What? With therapeutic drugs, exposures of aquatic organisms are at levels far below therapeutic dosages for humans - and exposures for humans via drinking water are lower yet. So why should we be concerned even if PPCPs prove to be ubiquitous pollutants?" This question will be examined from a number of perspectives and suggestions will be offered with respect to actions regarding future direction for research and pollution prevention.
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Citation:Daughton, C. G. Origins and Ramifications of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment. Presented at Water Reuse Foundations's 2004 Annual Water Reuse Research Conference, Las Vegas, NV, May 17, 2004.
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Contact: Chris Siebert - (702) 798-2234 or siebert.christopher@epa.gov
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Division: Environmental Sciences Division
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Branch: Environmental Chemistry Branch
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Product Type: Abstrct/Oral
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Presented: 05/17/2004
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Related Entries:
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Bullet Item Addressing Emerging Issues in Water Quality Through Environmental Chemistry
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