Pharmaceuticals in the environment: review of current disposal practices for medications and the influence of public perception on environmental risks

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Abstract There is growing public concern over the presence of trace organic contaminants, including active pharmaceuticals ingredients (API), in water and the environment. Public utilities in the United States, such as water supply and wastewater treatment processes, have yet to appropriately address this problem. Although wastewater treatment plants are equipped to remove chemicals, foreign materials, and microorganisms from influent prior to discharging to natural waters, active drug compounds are not completely eliminated in the treatment process. APIs typically enter the environment when passed through the human body or when people dispose of unused medicines into the sanitary sewer system. The relative contribution of disposal practices remains uncertain, but management of disposal provides a potentially effective strategy for the reduction of API pollution. A major unknown with respect to drugs as pollutants is the proportion of drug residues found in the environment that can be attributed to discarding leftover drugs. Absence of this information inhibits the adequate assessment of the role drug accumulation and disposal plays as a contributing source of drug residues in the environment. Moreover, little is known about public awareness of the detrimental environmental consequences of APIs and how such knowledge influences personal disposal choices. By reviewing recent studies, this paper aims to shed light on the impact of current disposal practices and the public perception of environmental risks associated with pharmaceutical contamination.



Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients