Scientists: too many active pharmaceutical ingredients entering in the environment

  • 2021-12-23

December marks the end of the international project “Clear Waters from Pharmaceuticals-2”.  During the project scientists from almost all Baltic sea countries carried out research to identify which active pharmaceutical ingredients and their metabolites pollute the Baltic Sea the most. During the study, concentrations of  more than 70 active pharmaceutical  ingredients were determined. Also in order to raise awareness of the problem an educational video was produced as part of the project (link below).

No medicine could fully perform its function without substances that are specifically designed to act on living cells. When this happens in the human body, we are treated, but at the moment medicines are released into the environment, they start to act on organisms this action that do not need. When one species is affected, the whole ecosystem is invariably affected and, what is particularly dangerous, the effects and the consequences are unpredictable.

Since autumn 2017, fifteen different organizations have been implementing the Clear Waters from Pharmaceuticals (CWPharma) project in seven European countries - Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Poland and Sweden - and nine of these organizations implemented follow-up project Clear Waters from Pharmaceuticals 2, both supported by the EU Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme.

Between 2017 and 2021, scientists in each of the listed countries carried out research under these projects to identify which pharmaceutically active substances and their metabolites are the most important pollutants in the Baltic Sea ecosystem.

During the study, concentrations were determined for more than 70 pharmaceutically active substances. In Latvia, researchers found pharmaceutically active substances in the environment in particularly high concentrations in several cardiovascular drugs, painkillers and antibiotics.

Samples were collected in the Vantaanjoki river basin district (Finland), the Pärnu river (Estonia), the Lielupe and Daugava rivers (Latvia), the Vistula river (Poland), the Vornova-Pina river (Germany) and the Motala river (Sweden).

Samples were analyzed from surface water, Baltic Sea coastal water, sediment and soil fertilized with sewage sludge or manure. Emissions from municipal wastewater treatment plants (untreated and treated wastewater), hospital and pharmaceutical wastewater, landfills and fish and livestock farms were also analyzed.

A total of 13 365 AFV concentrations were determined from 226 samples during the study.

Currently, pharmaceutically active substances in Latvia enter the environment mainly through two routes. Firstly, through wastewater treatment plants, which are not - at least not yet - equipped to treat these types of substances. Secondly, when people dispose of medicines incorrectly, for example by throwing them in household waste. If everyone took unwanted or unusable medicines back to pharmacies, they would be much less likely to end up in the environment.

To educate the public and raise awareness in society about active pharmaceutical ingredient problems, the project produced an educational video. This video has been produced in the framework of the Clear Waters from Pharmaceuticals 2 (CWPharma2) project.

Video ENG

Video LV


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