Medicines and personal care products Pollutant water

Filed in: Diseases & Conditions.

Medicines and personal care products Pollutant water

Pharmaceutical products and personal care products (PPCP): Do your personal habits and lifestyle contribute to contaminated drinking water?

Focus on the consumer

What are the "PPCP"? What are the main sources of PPCP in the environment? What is the general scientific concern? Should we worry about ecological and / or human health? Where are the PPCPs in the environment? How is the elimination of unused pharmaceutical products regulated? How do I properly dispose of unwanted pharmaceutical products? Who can I contact for more information?

Scientific approach

Where did the PPCP acronym originate? What was the historical role of the EPA in this area? In what quantities are PPCPs used or introduced into the environment? What are the main problems with respect to the effects? How can I contact the scientists working on this issue?

Focus on the consumer

What are the "PPCP"?

Pharmaceutical products and personal care products as contaminants (PPCP) refer, in general, to any product used by individuals for personal or cosmetic health reasons or by agribusiness to improve the growth or health of livestock . PPCPs comprise a diverse collection of thousands of chemicals, including over-the-counter and over-the-counter therapeutic drugs, veterinary drugs, fragrances, lotions and Cosmetic products.

What are the main sources of PPCP in the environment?

Sources of PPCPs:

Human activity (eg, bathing, shaving, swimming) Illicit drugs Use of veterinary drugs, especially antibiotics and steroids Agribusiness Waste from pharmaceutical manufacturing (well defined and controlled) Waste from hospitals

The importance of individuals adding chemicals to the environment has been largely ignored. The discovery of PPCP in water and soil shows that even simple activities such as shaving, using lotion or taking medication affect the environment in which you live.

People contribute PPCP to the environment when:

drug residues pass out of the body into sewers, externally applied medications and personal care products used to wash the shower drain, and unused or expired medications are placed in the trash.

Personal use and the manufacture of illicit drugs are a less visible source of PPCP entering the environment.

Many of the issues related to the introduction of medicines into the environment for human use also relate to veterinary use, especially for antibiotics and steroids.

The discharge of pharmaceutical products and synthesis materials and by-products from manufacturing are already well defined and controlled.

This poster shows a Generalized synopsis of the sources of PPCPs in the environment.

What is the general scientific concern?

Studies have shown that pharmaceutical products are present in our nation's bodies of water. Subsequent research suggests that certain medications can cause ecological damage. More research is needed to determine the extent of the ecological damage and any role it may have in the possible effects on human health. To date, scientists have found no evidence of adverse effects on human health of PPCPs in the environment.


Large amounts of PPCP can enter the environment after use by individuals or pets.

Sewage systems are not equipped for the elimination of PPCP. Currently, there are no municipal wastewater treatment plants designed specifically for the elimination of PPCP or other unregulated pollutants. The effective elimination of PPCPs from treatment plants varies according to the type of chemical and the individual wastewater treatment facilities. The risks are uncertain. The risks posed to aquatic organisms and to humans are unknown, largely because the concentrations are very low. While the main concerns have been resistance to antibiotics and the disruption of aquatic endocrine systems (the system of glands that produce hormones that help control the metabolic activity of the body) by natural and synthetic sex steroids, many other PPCPs have unknown consequences. There are no known human health effects from low-level exposures in drinking water, but special scenarios (for example, fetal exposure to low levels of medications that the mother would normally avoid) require further investigation. The number of PPCP is growing. In addition to antibiotics and steroids, more than 100 individual PPCPs have been identified (as of 2007) in environmental samples and drinking water.

Should we worry about ecological and / or human health?

Studies have shown that pharmaceutical products are present in some of our nation's bodies of water. Additional research suggests that there may be some ecological damage when certain medications are present. To date, no evidence of the effects on human health of PPCPs in the environment has been found.

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Where are the PPCPs in the environment?

PPCPs are where people or animals are treated with drugs and people use personal care products. PPCPs are found in any body of water influenced by untreated or treated wastewater, including rivers, streams, groundwater, coastal marine environments and many sources of drinking water. PPCPs have been identified in most of the sites sampled.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) implemented a national survey to provide baseline information on the environmental occurrence of PPCP in water resources. You can find more information about this project in the USGSWhat's in our wastewater and where is it going? site.

PPCPs in the environment are often found in aquatic environments because PPCPs dissolve easily and do not evaporate at normal temperatures and pressures. Practices such as the use of sewage sludge ("biosolids") and the water recovered for irrigation put the PPCP in contact with the soil.

For more information on biosolids, see the report of the National Research Council (NRC): Biosolids applied to the land: advanced standards and practices (2002) USGS: pharmaceutical products are found in irrigated soil with reclaimed water

How is the elimination of pharmaceutical products not used by the US EPA regulated?

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is a federal law that controls the management and disposal of solid resources and Hazardous waste Produced by a wide variety of industries and sources. The RCRA program regulates the management and disposal of hazardous pharmaceutical waste produced by pharmaceutical manufacturers and the health care industry. Under RCRA, a waste is a hazardous waste if it is specifically listed by the EPA or if it exhibits one or more of the following four characteristics: flammability, corrosivity, reactivity and toxicity.

How do I properly dispose of unwanted pharmaceutical products?

In February 2007, the Office of National Drug Control Policy of the White House issued the first consumer guide on the proper disposal of prescription drugs. Proper disposal of medications is a simple way to avoid contamination.

RCRA does not regulate any domestic waste, which includes medicines / pharmaceutical waste generated in a home. Although pharmaceutical products discarded under the control of consumers are not regulated by RCRA, EPA encourages the public to:

to take advantage of the return programs of pharmaceutical products or the programs of collection of domestic hazardous waste that accept pharmaceutical products. If there are no return programs near you, contact your State and local waste management authorities (Disposal of household waste is mainly regulated at the state and local level) With questions about discarding unused pharmaceutical products, whether these materials meet the definition of hazardous waste or not, follow the specific disposal instructions that may be printed on the label or in the patient information that accompanies it

For more information, read the article "Elimination of medicines: what to do with old or unusable medicines".

Who can I contact for more information?

You can contact a EPA regional representative or a representative of the program office.

Scientific approach

Where did the PPCP acronym originate?

The acronym "PPCPs" was coined in the critical review of 1999 published in Perspectives of environmental health to refer to pharmaceutical and personal care products. PPCPs comprise a very broad and diverse collection of thousands of chemical substances, including therapeutic drugs, perfumes, cosmetics, sunscreen agents, diagnostic agents, nutraceuticals, biopharmaceuticals, biopharmaceuticals, chemicals to enhance growth Used in operations livestock, and many others. This broad collection of substances refers, in general, to any product used by individuals for reasons of personal or aesthetic health. Since its introduction in 1999, the acronym PPCP has become the term most frequently adopted in technical and popular literature and, therefore, is a useful keyword for literature searches.

What was the historical role of the EPA in this area?

The EPA established a leadership role starting in 1999 with the publication of a critical review article (PDF) (41pp, 789 KB) that attempted to bring together the many different aspects of this complex issue.

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From the beginning, an important objective has been to stimulate a proactive approach to a reactive approach to this environmental problem. The work was driven by the objectives of the Strategic Plan of the US EPA. The relevant objectives include:

Clean and safe water Pollution prevention and risk reduction in communities, homes, workplaces and ecosystems Better waste management, restoration of contaminated waste sites and emergency response and solid science: better understanding of environmental risk and greater innovation for address environmental problems

In addition, a primary objective of the US EPA's Office of Research and Development UU It is to identify and encourage the investigation of possible environmental problems / concerns before they become critical ecological or human health problems. The prevention of contamination (for example, the elimination or minimization of the source) is preferable to remediation or restoration to minimize both public cost and human / ecological exposure.

Current work: Complete list of EPA investigations on PPCPs

In what quantities are PPCPs used or introduced into the environment?

In general, PPCPs are produced and used in large quantities. Personal care products tend to be manufactured in extremely large quantities, thousands of tons per year. But the quantities of production or consumption do not correspond to the amounts of PPCP introduced into the environment. It is possible that PPCPs manufactured in large quantities are not found in the environment if they are easily broken down and processed by the human body or degrade rapidly. PPCPs made in small quantities could be over represented in the environment, if the human body does not decompose and process them easily and makes its way to domestic sewers.

What are some important problems regarding the effects?

The effects of PPCPs are different from conventional contaminants. The drugs are purposely designed to interact with cellular receptors in low concentrations and cause specific biological effects. Involuntary adverse effects can also occur due to interaction with non-target receptors.

Environmental toxicology focuses on the acute effects of exposure rather than chronic effects.

The effects on aquatic life are a major concern. The risks of exposure to aquatic organisms are much greater than those of humans. Aquatic organisms have: continuous exposures multigenerational exposures to higher concentrations of PPCP in untreated water, possible effects of low doses

The effects can be subtle because PPCPs in the environment occur at low concentrations. It is necessary to develop tests that detect more subtle endpoints. The neurobehavioral effects and the inhibition of the flow pumps are two examples. The subtle effects that accumulate can be significant. There are few aquatic / terrestrial toxicology data for PPCPs. There is substantially more data available for pesticides. For example, it is known that the brief exposure of salmon to 1 ppb of diazinon insecticide affects the signaling pathways (through olfactory interruption), which leads to the alteration in the initiation behavior (with obvious implications for predation, feeding and mating). There is concern that low doses of PPCP may also have effects. There are many kinds of drugs of concern:
Antibiotics in which they are actively being investigated Antimicrobials Astrogenic steroids Antidepressants. The profound effects on spawning and other behaviors in shellfish can occur with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. Calcium channel blockers. The dramatic inhibition of sperm activity in certain aquatic organisms can be effected by calcium channel blockers. Antiepileptic drugs (eg, phenytoin, valproate, carbamazepine) have potential as human neurothetogens, which triggers extensive apoptosis in the developing brain, leading to neurodegeneration. Multidrug transporters (efflux pumps). Possible importance of the outflow pump inhibitors (EPI) to compromise aquatic health. Musk fragrances are bioaccumulative and persistent genotoxic drugs (used mainly in hospitals)

How can I contact the scientists working on this issue?

Contact information for research scientists with active research on PPCP in the environment and government scientists with an interest in regulatory aspects is available. List of scientific researchers and their contact information..



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