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Scientific article
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Pharmaceutical pollution of the world's rivers

Publication date2022-02-14
First online date2022-02-14
Abstract

Environmental exposure to active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) can have negative effects on the health of ecosystems and humans. While numerous studies have monitored APIs in rivers, these employ different analytical methods, measure different APIs, and have ignored many of the countries of the world. This makes it difficult to quantify the scale of the problem from a global perspective. Furthermore, comparison of the existing data, generated for different studies/regions/continents, is challenging due to the vast differences between the analytical methodologies employed. Here, we present a global-scale study of API pollution in 258 of the world's rivers, representing the environmental influence of 471.4 million people across 137 geographic regions. Samples were obtained from 1,052 locations in 104 countries (representing all continents and 36 countries not previously studied for API contamination) and analyzed for 61 APIs. Highest cumulative API concentrations were observed in sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, and South America. The most contaminated sites were in low- to middle-income countries and were associated with areas with poor wastewater and waste management infrastructure and pharmaceutical manufacturing. The most frequently detected APIs were carbamazepine, metformin, and caffeine (a compound also arising from lifestyle use), which were detected at over half of the sites monitored. Concentrations of at least one API at 25.7% of the sampling sites were greater than concentrations considered safe for aquatic organisms, or which are of concern in terms of selection for antimicrobial resistance. Therefore, pharmaceutical pollution poses a global threat to environmental and human health, as well as to delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Keywords
  • Antimicrobials
  • Aquatic contamination
  • Global pollution
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Wastewater
Funding
  • UK Research and Innovation - DRIVERS OF HUMAN EXPOSURE TO ANTIBACTERIAL RESISTANCE IN THE SRI LANKAN ENVIRONMENT [MR/R014876/1]
Citation (ISO format)
Pharmaceutical pollution of the world’s rivers. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2022, vol. 119, n° 8, p. e2113947119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2113947119
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Article (Published version)
Identifiers
ISSN of the journal0027-8424
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