Cover Image

Ecotoxicological Aspects of Pharmaceuticals on Aquatic Environment

Prabal Giri, Churala Pal


Research on pharmaceuticals is becoming important today to the chemists as well as to the biologists considering the complex molecular functionalities, diverse physicochemical properties and bioactivities. Specific biological activities are the main reason for their use and development. Biodegradation modifies the chemical structure of their active molecules resulting in a change in their physicochemical and pharmaceutical properties. Chronic ecotoxicity data as well as information on the current distribution levels in different environmental compartments continue to be sparse and are focused on those therapeutic classes. Nevertheless, they indicate the negative impact that these chemical contaminants may have on living organisms, ecosystems and ultimately, public health. This paper describes the different contamination sources as well as fate and both acute and chronic effects on non-target organisms.


Supramolecular Chemistry; Crystal Engineering; Co-crystals; Pharmaceutical Co-crystals

Full Text:



Kummerer K. Introduction: pharmaceuticals in the environment, in: K. Kummerer (Ed.), Pharmaceuticals in the Environment: Sources, Fate, Effects and Risks, Springer, Berlin, 2001, pp. 1-8

Pfluger P, Dietrich DR. Effects on pharmaceuticals in the environment—an overview and principle considerations, in: K. Kummerer (Ed.), Pharmaceuticals in the Environment: Sources, Fate, Effects and Risks, Springer, Berlin, 2001, pp. 11-17

Zuccato E, Castiglioni S, Fanelli R, Reitano G, Bagnati R, Chiabrando C, Pomati F, Rossetti C, Calamari D. Pharmaceuticals in the environment in Italy: causes, occurrence, effects and control. Environ Sci Pollut Res. 2006, 13:15-21

Glassmeyer ST, Hinchey EH, Boehme SE, Daughton CG, Ruhoy IS, Conerly O, Daniels RL, Lauer L, McCarthy M, Nettesheim TG, Sykes K, Thompson VG. Disposal practises for unwanted residential medications in the United States. Environ Int. 2009, 35:566-572

Fent K, Weston AA, Caminada D. Ecotoxicology of human pharmaceuticals. Aquat Toxicol. 2006, 76 :122-159

Halling-Sorensen B, Nors Nielsen S, Lanzky PF, Ingerslev F, Holten Lutzhoft HC, Jorgensen SE. Occurrence, fate and effects of pharmaceutical substances in the environment--a review. Chemosphere. 1998, 36:357-393

Dorne JLCM, Ragas AMJ, Frampton GK, Spurgeon DS, Lewis DF. Trends in human risk assessment of pharmaceuticals. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2007, 387:1167-1172

Glassmeyer ST, Kolpin DW, Furlong ET, Focazio MJ. Environmental presence and persistence of pharmaceuticals: an overview, in: D.S. Aga (Ed.), Fate of Pharmaceuticals in the Environment and in Water Treatment Systems, CRC Press, Taylor and Francis, 2008, pp. 3-52

Gomez MJ, Martinez Bueno MJ, Lacorte S, Fernandez-Alba AR, Aguera A. Pilot survey monitoring pharmaceuticals and related compounds in a sewage treatment plant located on the Mediterranean coast. Chemosphere, 2007, 66:993-1002

Tauxe-Wuersch A, De Alencastro LF, Grandjean D, Tarradellas J. Occurrence of several acidic drugs in sewage treatment plants in Switzerland and risk assessment. Water Res. 2005, 39:1761-1772

Vieno NM, Tuhkanen T, Kronberg L. Analysis of neutral and basic pharmaceuticals in sewage treatment plants and in recipient rivers using solid phase extraction and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry detection. J Chromatogr A. 2006, 1134:101-111

Verenitch SS, Lowe CJ, Mazumder A. Determination of acidic drugs and caffeine in municipal wastewaters and receiving waters by gas chromatography-ion trap tandem mass spectrometry. J Chromatogr A. 2006, 1116:193-203

Lee HB, Peart TE, Svoboda ML. Determination of endocrine-disrupting phenols, acidic pharmaceuticals, and personal-care products in sewage by solid-phase extraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. J Chromatogr A. 2005, 1094:122-129

Koutsouba V, Heberer Th, Fuhrmann B, Schmidt-Baumler K, Tsipi D, Hiskia A. Determination of polar pharmaceuticals in sewage water of Greece by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Chemosphere. 2003, 51:69-75

Moldovan Z. Occurrences of pharmaceutical and personal care products as micropollutants in rivers from Romania. Chemosphere. 2006, 64:1808-1817

Bendz D, Paxeus NA, Ginn TR, Loge FJ. Occurrence and fate of pharmaceutically active compounds in the environment, a case study: Hoje River in Sweden. J Hazard Mater. 2005, 122:195-204

Stumpf M, Ternes TA, Wilken RD, Rodrigues SV, Baumann W. Polar drug residue in sewage and natural waters in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Sci Total Environ. 1999, 225:135-141

Kolpin DW, Furlong ET, Meyer MT, Thurman EM, Zaugg SD, Barber LB, Buxton HT. Pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants in U.S. streams, 1999-2000: a national reconnaissance. Environ Sci Technol. 2002, 36:1202-1211

Calamari D, Zuccato E, Castiglioni S, Bagnati R, Fanelli R. Strategic survey of therapeutic drugs in the Rivers Po and Lambro in Northern Italy. Environ Sci Technol. 2003, 37:1241-1248

Weigel S, Kuhlmann J, Huhnerfuss H. Drugs and personal care products as ubiquitious pollutants: occurrence and distribution of clofibric acid, caffeine and DEET in the North Sea. Sci Total Environ. 2002, 295:131-141

Sacher F, Lange FT, Brauch HJ, Blankenhorn I. Pharmaceuticals in groundwaters. Analytical methods and results of a monitoring program program in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. J Chromatogr A. 2001, 938:199-210

Batt AL, Snow DD, Aga DS. Occurrence of sulfonamide antimicrobials in private water wells in Washington County, Idaho, USA. Chemosphere. 2006, 64:1963-1971

Barnes KK, Kolpin DW, Furlong ET, Zaugg SD, Meyer MT, Barber LB. A national reconnaissance of pharmaceuticals and other organic wastewater contaminants in the United States—I) Groundwater. Sci Total Environ. 2008, 402:192-200

Potera C. Drugged drinking water. Environ,Health Perspect. 2000, 108:A446-A449

Loos R, Wollgast J, Huber T, Hanke G. Polar herbicides, pharmaceutical products, perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoate (PFOA), and nonylphenol and its carboxylates and ethoxylates in surface and tap waters around Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2007, 387:1469-1478

Focazio MJ, Kolpin DW, Barnes KK, Furlong ET, Meyer MT, Zaugg SD, Barber LB, Thurman ME. A national reconnaissance for pharmaceuticals and other organic wastewater contaminants in the United States—II) Untreated drinking water sources. Sci Total Environ. 2008, 402:201-216

Benotti MJ, Trenholm RA, Vanderford BJ, Holady JC, Stanford BD, Snyder SA. Pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupting compounds in U.S. drinking water. Environ Sci Technol. 2009, 43:597-603

Pery ARR, Gust M, Vollat B, Mons R, Ramil M, Fink G, Ternes T, Garric J. Fluoxetine effects assessment on the life cycle of aquatic invertebrates. Chemosphere. 2008, 73:300-304

Kidd KA, Blanchfield PJ, Mills KH, Palace VP, Evans RE, Lazorchak JM, Flick RW. Collapse of a fish population after exposure to a synthetic estrogen. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2007, 104:8897-8901

Daughton CG, Ternes TA. Pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment: agents of subtle changes? Environ. Health Perspect. 1999, 107:907-938

Timbrell J. Principles of Biochemical Toxicology, third ed., Taylor & Francis, London, 2002

Braund R, Peake BM, Schieffelbien L. Disposal practises for unused medications in New Zeland. Environ Int. 2009, 35:952-955

Persson M, Sabelstrom E, Gunnarsson B. Handling of unused prescription drugs—knowledge, behaviour and attitude among Swedish people. Environ Int. 2009, 35:771-774

Heberer T. Occurrence, fate, and removal of pharmaceutical residues in the aquatic environment: a review of recent research data. Toxicol Lett. 2002, 131:5-17

Bound JP, Voulvoulis N. Household disposal of pharmaceuticals as a pathway for aquatic contamination in the United Kingdom, Environ. Health Perspect. 2005, 113:1705-1711

Xia K, Bhandari A. Das K. Pillar G. Occurrence and fate of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in biosolids. J Environ Qual. 2005, 34:91-104

Topp E, Monteiro SC, Beck A, Coelho BB, Boxall ABA, Duenk PW, Kleywegt S, Lapen DR, Payne M, Sabourin L, Li H, Metcalfe CD. Runoff of pharmaceuticals and personal care products following application of biosolids to an agricultural field. Sci Total Environ. 2008, 396:52-59

Kemper N. Veterinary antibiotics in the aquatic and terrestrial environment. Ecol Indic. 2008, 8:1-13

Kay P, Blackwell PA, Boxall ABA. Transport of veterinary antibiotics in overland flow following the application of slurry to arable land. Chemosphere. 2005, 59:951-959

Le TX, Munekage Y. Residues of selected antibiotics in water and mud from shrimp ponds in mangrove areas in Viet Nam. Marine Pollut Bull. 2004, 49:922-929

Lalumera GM, Calamari D, Galli P, Castiglioni S, Crosa G, Fanelli R. Preliminary investigation on the environmental occurrence and effects of antibiotics used in aquaculture in Italy. Chemosphere. 2004, 54:661-668

Lin AYC, Tsai YT. Occurrence of pharmaceuticals in Taiwan’s surface waters: impact of waste streams from hospitals and pharmaceutical production facilities. Sci Total Environ. 2009, 407:3793-3802

Li D, Yang M, Hu J, Zhang Y, Chang H, Jin F. Determination of penicillin G and its degradation products in a penicillin production wastewater treatment plant and the receiving river. Water Res. 2008, 42:307-317

Larsson DGJ, Pedro C, Paxeus N. Effluent from drug manufactures contains extremely high levels of pharmaceuticals. J Hazard Mater. 2007, 148:751-755

Boreen AL, Arnold WA, McNeill K. Photodegradation of pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment: a review. Aquat Sci. 2003, 65:320-341

Bartels P, Tumpling Jr.W. Solar radiation influence on the decomposition process of diclofenac in surface waters. Sci Total Environ. 2007, 374:143-155

Crane M, Watts C, Boucard T. Chronic aquatic environmental risks from exposure to human pharmaceuticals. Sci Total Environ. 2006, 367:23-41

Roberts PH, Thomas KV. The occurrence of selected pharmaceuticals in wastewater effluent and surface waters of the lower Tyne catchment. Sci Total Environ. 2006, 356:143-153

Ternes TA. Occurrence of drugs in German sewage treatment plants and rivers. Water Res. 1998, 32:3245-3260

Lindqvist N, Tuhkanen T, Kronberg L. Occurrence of acidic pharmaceuticals in raw and treated sewages and in receiving waters. Water Res. 2005, 39:2219-2228

Sedlak DL, Pinkston KE. Factors affecting the concentrations of pharmaceuticals released to the aquatic environment. Water Resour. Update 2001, 120:56-64

Cirja M, Ivashechkin P, Schaffer A, Corvini PFX. Factors affecting the removal of organic micropollutants from wastewater in conventional treatment plants (CTP) and membrane bioreactors (MBR). Rev Environ Sci Biotechnol. 2008, 7:61-78

Kummerer K. Drugs in the environment: emission of drugs, diagnostic aids and disinfectants into wastewater by hospitals in relation to other sources—a review. Chemosphere. 2001, 45:957-969.

Lin AYC, Yu TH, Lin CF. Pharmaceutical contamination in residential, industrial, and agricultural waste streams: risk to aqueous environments in Taiwan. Chemosphere. 2008, 74:131-141

Zwiener C, Gremm TJ, Frimmel FH. Pharmaceutical residues in the aquatic environment and their significance for drinking water production, in: K.Kummerer (Ed.), Pharmaceuticals in the Environment: Sources, Fate, Effects and Risks, Springer, Berlin, 2001, pp. 81-89

Stackelberg PE, Furlong ET, Meyer MT, Zaugg SD, Henderson AK, Reissman DB. Persistence of pharmaceutical compounds and other organic wastewater contaminants in a conventional drinking-water-treatment plant. Sci Total Environ. 2004, 329:99-113

Vane JR, Botting RM. Mechanism of action of antiinflammatory drugs. Int J Tissue React. 1998, 20:3-15

Zou J, Neumann NF, Holland JW, Belosevic M, Cunningham C, Secombes CJ, Rowley AF. Fish macrophages express a cyclo-oxygenase-2 homologue after activation. Biochem J. 1999, 340 153-159

Lundholm CE. DDE-induced eggshell thinning in birds: effects of p,p’-DDE on the calcium and prostaglandin metabolism of the eggshell gland. Comp Biol Physiol. 1997, 118C:113-128

Cleuvers M. Aquatic ecotoxicity of pharmaceuticals including the assessment of combination effects. Toxicol Lett. 2003, 142:185-194

Schwaiger J, Ferling H, Mallow U, Wintermayr H, Negele RD. Toxic effects of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac. Part I: histopathological alterations and bioaccumulation in rainbow trout. Aquat Toxicol. 2004, 68:141-150

Triebskorn R, Casper H, Heyd A, Eikemper R, Kohler HR, Schwaiger J. Toxic effects of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac. Part II. Cytological effects in liver, kidney, gills and intestine of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Aquat Toxicol. 2004, 68:151-166

Hoeger B, Kollner B, Dietrich DR, Hitzfeld B. Water-borne diclofenac affects kidney and gill integrity and selected immune parameters in brown trout (Salmo trutta f. fario). Aquat Toxicol. 2005, 75:53-64

Schmitt-Jansen M, Bartels P, Adler N, Altenburger R. Phytotoxicity assessment of diclofenac and its phototransformation products. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2007, 387:1389-1396

DeLorenzo ME, Fleming J. Individual and mixture effects of selected pharmaceuticals and personal care products on the marine phytoplankton species Dunaliella tertiolecta. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2008, 54:203-210

Hernando MD, Heath E, Petrovic M, Barcelo D. Trace-level determination of pharmaceuticals residues by LC-MS/MS in natural and treated waters. A pilot-survey study. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2006, 385:985-991

Weigel S, Kallenborn R, Huhnerfuss H. Simultaneous solid-phase extraction of acidic, neutral and basic pharmaceuticals from aqueous samples at ambient (neutral) pH and their determination by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. J Chromatogr A. 2004, 1023:183-195

Gomez MJ, Petrovi´ c M, Fernandez-Alba AR, Barcelo D. Determination of pharmaceuticals of various therapeutic classes by solid-phase extraction and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry analysis in hospital effluent wastewaters. J Chromatogr A. 2006, 1114:224-233

Flippin JL, Huggett D, Foran CM. Changes in the timing of reproduction following chronic exposure to ibuprofen in Japanese medaka, Oryzias latipes. Aquat Toxicol. 2007, 81:73-78

Isidori M, Lavorgna M, Nardelli A, Parrella A, Previtera L, Rubino M. Ecotoxicity of naproxen and its phototransformation products. Sci Total Environ. 2005, 348:93-101

Kim Y, Choi K, Jung J, Park S, Kim PG, Park J. Aquatic toxicity of acetaminophen, carbamazepine, cimetidine, diltiazem and six major sulfonamides, and their potential ecological risks in Korea. Environ Int. 2007, 33:275-370

Henschel KP, Wenzel A, Diedrich M, Fliedner A. Environmental hazard assessment of pharmaceuticals. Regul Toxicol Pharm. 1997, 25:220-225

Sanderson H, Brain RA, Johnson DJ, Wilson CJ, Solomon KR. Toxicity classification and evaluation of four pharmaceuticals classes: antibiotics, antineoplastics, cardiovascular, and sex hormones.Toxicology. 2004, 203:27-40

Jones OAH, Voulvoulis N, Lester JN. Aquatic environmental assessment of the top 25 English prescription pharmaceuticals. Water Res. 2002, 36:5013-5022

Boxall AB, Kolpin DW, Halling-Sorensen B, Tolls J. Are veterinary medicines causing environmental risks? Environ Sci Technol. 2003, 37:286A-294A

Migliore L, Civitareale C, Cozzolino S, Casoria P, Brambilla G, Gaudio L. Laboratory models to evaluate phytotoxicity of sulphadimethoxine on terrestrial plants. Chemosphere. 1998, 37:2957-2961

Costanzo SD, Murby J, Bates J. Ecosystem response to antibiotics entering the aquatic environment. Mar Pollut Bull. 2005, 51: 218-223

Thacker PD. Pharmaceutical data elude researchers. Environ Sci Technol. 2005, 39:193A-194A

Nickerson JG, Dugan SG, Drouin G, Moon TW. A putative _2-adrenoceptor from the rainbow trout (Oncorhyncus mykiss). Molecular characteristion and pharmacology. Eur J Biochem. 2001, 268:6465-6472

Haider S, Baqri SSR. Adrenoceptor antagonists reinitiate meiotic maturation in Clarias batrachus oocytes. Comp Biochem Physiol A. 2000, 126:517-525

Huggett DB, Brooks BW, Peterson B, Foran CM, Schlenk D. Toxicity of select beta adrenergic receptor-blocking pharmaceuticals (B-Blockers) on aquatic organisms. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2002, 43:229-235

Larsson DGJ, Fredriksson S, Sandblom E, Paxeus N, Axelsson M. Is heart rate in fish a sensitive indicator to evaluate acute effects of _-blockers in surface water? Environ. Toxicol Pharmacol. 2006, 22:338-340

Johnson AC, Jurgens MD, Williams RJ, Kummerer K, Kortenkamp A, Sumpter JP. Do cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs discharged into rivers pose a risk to the environment and human health? An overview and UK case study. J Hydrol. 2008, 348:167-175

Steger-Hartmann T, Kummerer K, Hartmann A. Biological degradation of cyclophosphamide and its occurrence in sewage water. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 1997, 36:174-179

Buerge IJ, Buser HR, Poiger T, Muller MD. Occurrence and fate of the cytostatic drugs cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide in wastewater and surface waters. Environ Sci Technol. 2006, 40:7242-7250

Perez S, Barcelo D. Fate and occurrence of X-ray contrast media in the environment. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2007, 387:1235-1246

Steger-Hartmann T, Lange R, Schweinfurth H, Tschampel M, Rehmann I. Investigations into the environmental fate and effects of iopromide (ultravist), a widely used iodinated X-ray contrast medium. Water Res. 32002, 6:266-274

Steger-Hartmann T, Lange R, Schweinfurth H. Environmental risk assessment for the widely used iodinated X-ray contrast agent iopromide (Ultravist). Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 1999, 42:274-281

Carballa M, Omil F, Lema JM, Llompart M, Garcia-Jares C, Rodriguez I, Gomez M, Ternes T. Behavior of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and hormones in a sewage treatment plant. Water Res. 2004, 38:2918-2926

Ternes TA, Hirsch R. Occurrence and behavior of X-ray contrast media in sewage facilities and the aquatic environment. Environ Sci Technol. 2000, 34:2741-2748

Trenholm RA, Vanderford BJ, Holady JC, Rexing DJ, Snyder SA. Broad range analysis of endocrine disruptors and pharmaceuticals using gas chromatography and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Chemosphere. 2006, 65:1990-1998

Busetti F, Linge KL, Blythe JW, Heitz A. Rapid analysis of iodinated Xray contrast media in secondary and tertiary treated wastewater by direct injection liquid-chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. J Chromatogr A. 2008, 1213:200-208

Seitz W, Weber WH, Jiang JQ, Lloyd BJ, Maier M, Maier D, chulzWS. Monitoring of iodinated X-ray contrast media in surface water. Chemosphere. 2006, 64:1318-1324

Putschew A, Wischnack S, Jekel M. Occurrence of triiodinated X-ray contrast agents in the aquatic environment. Sci Total Environ. 2000, 255:129-134


  • There are currently no refbacks.

AJDD Copyright © 2012-2020. All rights reserved. Published by Ivy Union Publishing, 3204 Valley Rush Dr, Apex, North Carolina 27502, United States