2011 PAG Annual Report
The presence and potential hazards of pharmaceuticals in the
environment have received increasing international attention in the
academic and popular press, as well as within the regulatory community.
The increased focus on potential ecological effects from pharmaceuticals
largely began as a result of a growing number of technical papers
published from the late 1990s until the present that reported low levels
of pharmaceuticals in Wastewater Treatment Plant effluent and surface
water and, to a more limited extent, groundwater, drinking water, and
Environmental concerns about pharmaceuticals have consistently been linked to two factors:
- The bioactive property of pharmaceuticals, which is the basis of their therapeutic (pharmacological) activity.
- The potential for pharmaceuticals to be routinely present, albeit at low concentrations, from ongoing use.
Concerns have been raised about whether the current
environmental risk assessment scientific methodology may need to be
revised or replaced to evaluate the potential environmental impact of
The Society of Environmental
Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Pharmaceuticals Advisory Group (AG) was
established to advance the science and understanding of pharmaceuticals
in the environment. It is a formally recognized forum within SETAC and
was established by the SETAC World Council (SWC) in October 2005.
Membership of the Pharmaceuticals AG is open to all SETAC members, as
well as to all professionals interested in the topics addressed by the
Pharmaceuticals AG. Please contact Alistair Boxall (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.
The scope of the SETAC Pharmaceuticals AG is human and veterinary
pharmaceuticals. Personal Care Products (PCP) and other emerging
contaminants are not included since it is specifically pharmacological
bioactivity that has called into question the adequacy of the existing
environmental risk assessment science for pharmaceuticals. Scientific
coverage of the Pharmaceuticals AG includes all fields pertinent to
conducting effective environmental risk assessments for pharmaceuticals,
such as transport, fate, exposure, effect, and impact analysis. All
environmental compartments, such as aquatic, terrestrial, and biomass
are included. You can find more background information on the
Pharmaceuticals Advisory Group in this PDF.
November 2011: Dr Thomas Knacker passed away earlier this week
We are very sad to announce that Dr Thomas Knacker passed away
earlier this week. Thomas was one of the leading researchers in Europe
in the pharmaceuticals in the environment area and was instrumental in
organising many pharmaceutical sessions at SETAC meetings. Thomas was
also guest editor for the recent IEAM special issue on pharmaceutical
risk assessment. As well as being an excellent scientist, Thomas was
also a wonderful friend to many of us and will be sorely missed. The PAG
would like to express its deep condolences to Thomas's family as well
as to his work colleagues at ECT.
November 2011: Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment: Research Priorities in Australia and New Zealand
Pharmaceutical Advisory Group (PAG) recently identified its "top 20"
global research and policy questions about the effects and risks of
pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the environment. A
one-day Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
(CSIRO)/SETAC Australasia Workshop, held in Adelaide on 5 October 2011,
brought together stakeholders from Australia and New Zealand (Aus/NZ) to
discuss the top 20 questions and identify priorities on PPCPs in the
The workshop was attended by 38 participants from Aus/NZ regulatory
agencies, policy making institutions, water utilities, and academic and
researcher institutions. The workshop began with a series of
presentations providing an overview of current research. Dr Alistair
Boxall provided a global overview. Drs Stuart Khan and Anu Kumar spoke
about what's happening in Australia, and Drs Grant Northcott and Barrie
Peake about New Zealand. Dr David Halliwell of the Water Quality
Research Alliance presented an Australian water and wastewater industry
Workshop participants then formed breakout groups to discuss the
relevance of the top 20 questions to the Australasian situation and
identify major gaps. All of the top 20 questions were found to be
relevant, but a number of factors specific to Australasia were
identified as warranting further attention:
- The region has unique fauna (e.g. marsupials and monotremes), a
greater number of endangered species, broader genetic diversity and
developmental characteristics; and higher value receiving environments
(e.g. Great Barrier Reef) than many other areas of the world. The
implications for PPCP environmental risks are unclear.
- The region has a smaller but rapidly expanding human population,
mainly concentrated in urban areas close to the coast. The ratio of
livestock to people probably also differs from elsewhere.
- The region is home to a number of indigenous populations. This
raises cultural sensitivities as native populations view water, soil and
chemical contamination in a very different light (e.g. Maoris in NZ do
not accept mixing of water sources).
- There is a greater reliance on water reuse including artificial
recharge into groundwater aquifers than elsewhere in the world due to
water scarcity. Many streams and rivers are dominated by effluent
- The region covers a very large geographical area with climatic
extremes (e.g. tropical to temperate climates) and a diver geology which
can affect soil types and profiles and hydrological flow patterns.
Based on the day's discussions, the participants recommended
that a 21st question - how cultural perspectives can be incorporated
into PPCP environmental risk assessment and management - should be added
to the top 20 list.
A summary report describing the detailed discussion points for each of the top 20 questions is available from Dr. Rai Kookana, Rai.Kookana@csiro.au.
September 2011: East Asian Workshop 'Pharmaceuticals
and Personal Care Products in the Environment; What are the Research
Needs?' Seoul National University, South Korea
East Asian Workshop on pharmaceuticals and personal care products in
the environment was held on September 30, 2011, at Seoul National
University, Seoul, Korea. This workshop, which followed the recent PAG
'Global 20 Question Exercise', was organized by scientists from Seoul
National University (SNU), the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tokushima
University and the University of York and discussed key region-specific
research questions around PPCPs in the environment. East Asia, which
includes China, Japan, and Korea, holds more than a quarter of the
world's population, and has a mixture of some of the most- and least-
developed areas in the world. This raises region-specific challenges in
terms of the exposure, effects and risks of PPCPs in the environment.
The workshop, which was attended by 11 experts from the region and many
graduate students from SNU, concluded that the major routes of exposure
profiles for PPCPs in the region are likely to be very different from
routes of exposure in N. America and Europe due to e.g. a reliance on
aquaculture, a lack of sewer connectivity in some areas of E. Asia or
differences in the way that animal and human faecal waste materials is
handled and treated. Participants also recognised that the population in
the region are much more reliant on natural remedies than elsewhere in
the world. Finally, the attendees questioned the relevance of standard
ecotoxicity tests, which may primarily reflect ecosystems in N. America
and Europe, for use in risk assessment of PPCPs to E. Asian ecosystems.
Overall, the workshop concluded, that it would be dangerous to 'read
across' directly from experience form N. America and Europe over
potential PPCP risks to the E. Asian environment and that much more
region- specific research needed to be done on the topic. The attendees
agreed that scientists in the region who are performing PPCP research
needed to work together more closely and agreed to organise a follow-on
workshop in September 2012 in Kumamoto Japan during the Asia Pacific
SETAC meeting. A short paper describing the discussions and conclusions
of the workshop is also under development. For further information on
the workshop and to get involved in future regional activities on PPCPs
and the environment, please contact Dr Kyungho Choi at Seoul National
University (email: email@example.com).
April 2011: The Pharmaceuticals Advisory
Group submitted (in cooparation with the Human Health Risk Assessment
Advisory Group) scientific comments on two emerging policy issues to SAICM, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management.
The first set of comments concerned the "International Cooperation to
Build Awareness and Understanding and Promote Actions on Endocrine
Disrupting Chemicals", which can be downloaded as a PDF here. The second set of comments related to "Environmental Persistent Pharmaceutical Pollutants", which can be downloaded here (also as a PDF). We welcome any comments, please send them via email to Alistair Boxall (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thomas Backhaus, 2011