The U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) is hosting a series of Internet webcasts throughout the fall on pharmaceuticals in the environment. This first webcast on pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the environment provides an overview of the issue as well as an idea of what activities are occuiring in the EPA Regions.
Pharmaceuticals comprise a large and varied group of chemicals, including human and veterinary medicines, which enter the environment in many ways, e.g., excretion, bathing, and disposal of unused medications. As trace components in water, sediment, and soils, these chemicals are largely unregulated in the U.S. The concentrations of these chemicals can vary from parts per billion or less in water, to orders of magnitude higher in biosolids from waste water treatment plants, and manure from concentrated animal feeding operations. The first presentation during this seminar focuses on what is known and not known regarding the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in the environment, effects on wildlife, and the relevance of drug residues on risk perception regarding sources of drinking water. Efforts are underway at the national level to coordinate among the federal agencies through a task force whose efforts will be described. The complete abstract for this first presentation is available (32K/1p/PDF).
Following the EPA National Regional Science Council (NRSC) identification of PPCPs as a science need on which ORD should focus, a cross-Regional team on PPCPs was formed. The Regions identified several research questions: (1) Is there evidence of harm to human health or the environment at PPCPs levels that are detectable? (2) What are the sources of PPCPs in the environment? (3) Can PPCP sources be controlled or reduced? (4) What are the most important PPCPs to monitor? (5) What existing analytical methods should be used? (6) What is known about PPCP fate and transport? (7) Are there valid exposure and/or effects tests? The Cross-Regional PPCPs Team also identified examples where research is currently underway to investigate PPCPs. Several Regions are working with ORD and/or their state and local partners to develop chemical analytical methodologies, perform field evaluations of waste water treatment plant effluents, field test new gene-expression assays of exposure to endocrine active compounds, and funding various stewardship activities.