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Gerd Maack


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Welcome to the SETAC Pharmaceutical Interest Group (IG). To joint this IG, make sure you are signed in to your SETAC account then click "Join Group” near the top of this page.

Mission and Purpose

The Pharmaceuticals IG exists to serve as a scientific resource to all stakeholders impacted by the topic of pharmaceuticals in the environment, and fulfils the following mission and purpose:

  • Serve as a focal point within SETAC as a means of involving the membership in research and discussions
  • Stimulate critical assessment in order to establish the best available science
  • Encourage the worldwide incorporation of the best available science and strategic approaches
  • Advance the overall understanding of the fate, effects, and potential environmental consequences of pharmaceuticals
  • Provide scientific support to ensure effective regulatory decision making
  • Provide a neutral platform and focal point for collaborative identification, evaluation, and resolution of scientific issues


The scope of the SETAC Pharmaceuticals IG 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 IG 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.


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. This focus on the 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 have reported the detection of low levels of pharmaceuticals in wastewater treatment plant effluent, manufacturing plant effluent and surface water and, to a more limited extent, groundwater, drinking water, soils, and sediment.

Environmental concerns about pharmaceuticals have consistently been linked to two factors:

  • The bioactive properties of pharmaceuticals, which is the basis of their therapeutic (pharmacological) activity.
  • The potential for pharmaceuticals to be continuously present, albeit at low concentrations, due to 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 pharmaceuticals appropriately.

The Pharmaceuticals Interest Group (IG) was established to advance the science and understanding of pharmaceuticals in the environment in October 2005.


The Pharmaceuticals IG will develop and implement a long-range strategic plan for stimulating and participating in the advancement of Pharmaceuticals-related environmental science. Roles and responsibilities focus on identification of research needs and fostering scientific exchange. In specific, the steps the Pharmaceuticals IG may take to meet its mission and purpose include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Preparation of technical papers (general information, issue specific)
  • Developing a specific area of the SETAC web site for the Pharmaceuticals IG
  • Developing a discussion forum on the SETAC web site
  • Sponsoring general pharmaceuticals technical sessions at meetings
  • Holding targeted (subject specific) discussion groups at meetings
  • Implementing short courses, for example in advance of either SETAC or other conferences
  • Communication of updates in the SETAC Globe

Pharmaceutical research highlight: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry recently published articles

The psychoactive drug escitalopram affects foraging behavior in zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Sebastian Vedel Nielsen, Marie Frausing, Per Guldhammer Henriksen, Kristian Beedholm,  Erik Baatrup

Version of Record online: 06 August 2019  

Upcoming activities

SETAC Toronto 3rd- 7th November 2019



Recent activities

SETAC Helsinki Special Session: The EU-IMI Project Intelligence-led Assessment of Pharmaceuticals in the Environment (iPiE) - Sunday 26 May

The iPiE project was introduced highlighting progress made towards developing predictive frameworks that utilise information from existing datasets on environmental fate and effects of APIs, toxicological studies, pharmacological mode of action and in silico models to support more intelligent environmental testing of pharmaceuticals in development and to prioritise legacy pharmaceuticals for full environmental risk assessment and/or environmental (bio) monitoring.


Annual Reports

2018 Pharmaceuticals Interest Group Annual Report

2015 Pharmaceuticals Interest Group Annual Report 

2014 Pharmaceuticals Interest Group Annual Report



Related Group News

Today’s disposable society: Pharmaceuticals and other contaminants of emerging concern
Posted in SETAC Journals, Thursday, November 12, 2015

PENSACOLA, Fla. – An increasing amount of drugs taken by humans and animals make it into our streams and waterways, and pharmaceutical pollution has had ... more »

 View All News »

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