Which human pharmaceuticals pose the greatest threat to aquatic organisms?

Theme: Environmental Pollution

Main Supervisor:

John Sumpter

Institute for the Environment, BRUNEL

Project Description:

Around 1000 human pharmaceuticals are in use in the UK. Many of these are present in our rivers. Concentrations are low, but aquatic organisms are continuously exposed. It is already established that one pharmaceutical, ethinyl estradiol – a component of the contraceptive ‘Pill’ – contributes to the widespread feminisation of freshwater fish in many rivers.

What about all the other pharmaceuticals? Are they of no concern, or are some of them also present at concentrations capable of causing adverse effects to aquatic wildlife, such as fish and invertebrates? Currently it is not clear how to rank pharmaceuticals based on the degree of threat they pose, so that both research and regulatory activity can be focussed wisely.

This project will involve developing various prioritisation approaches, using these to rank pharmaceuticals, and testing some of them to assess the accuracy of the rankings.

Policy Impact of Research:

Around 1000 human pharmaceuticals are in use in the UK. Many of these are present in our rivers. Concentrations are low, but aquatic organisms are continuously exposed. It is already established that one pharmaceutical, ethinyl estradiol – a component of the contraceptive ‘Pill’ – contributes to the widespread feminisation of freshwater fish in many rivers.

What about all the other pharmaceuticals? Are they of no concern, or are some of them also present at concentrations capable of causing adv


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