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Low dose, constant drip: Pharmaceuticals & personal care products impact aquatic life

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Traditional toxicity testing underestimates the risk that pharmaceutical and personal care product pollution poses to freshwater ecosystems. Criteria that account for ecological disruption – not just organism death – are needed to protect surface waters, which are under pressure from a growing population and escalating synthetic chemical use. So reports a new study published this week in Elementa.

Traditional toxicity testing underestimates the risk that pharmaceutical and personal care product pollution poses to freshwater ecosystems. Criteria that account for ecological disruption – not just organism death – are needed to protect surface waters, which are under pressure from a growing population and escalating synthetic chemical use. So reports a new study published this week in Elementa.

Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove the chemicals found in pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Instead, these chemicals enter waterways where their effects on aquatic ecosystems are largely unknown.

Emma Rosi, an aquatic ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and coauthor on the study explains, “Some 15 years ago, a landmark study found pharmaceuticals and personal care products in 80% of streams sampled across the US. Additional research confirmed similar patterns globally. The majority of these compounds are understudied, unregulated, and/or deemed ‘low risk’. Yet there is a growing body of knowledge that PPCPs disrupt aquatic ecosystems, even at low concentrations.”

Read more at Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Photo: The Artificial Stream Facility at the Cary Institute is used to study the ecological consequences of PPCP pollution. 

(Photo credit: Erinn Richmond)