Pharmaceutical pollution of the world’s rivers

Wilkinson, John L. and Boxall, Alistair B. A. and Kolpin, Dana W. and Leung, Kenneth M. Y. and Lai, Racliffe W. S. and Galbán-Malagón, Cristóbal and Adell, Aiko D. and Mondon, Julie and Metian, Marc and Marchant, Robert A. and Bouzas-Monroy, Alejandra and Cuni-Sanchez, Aida and Coors, Anja and Carriquiriborde, Pedro and Rojo, Macarena and Gordon, Chris and Cara, Magdalena and Moermond, Monique and Luarte, Thais and Petrosyan, Vahagn and Perikhanyan, Yekaterina and Mahon, Clare S. and McGurk, Christopher J. and Hofmann, Thilo and Kormoker, Tapos and Iniguez, Volga and Guzman-Otazo, Jessica and Tavares, Jean L. and Gildasio De Figueiredo, Francisco and Razzolini, Maria T. P. and Dougnon, Victorien and Gbaguidi, Gildas and Traoré, Oumar and Blais, Jules M. and Kimpe, Linda E. and Wong, Michelle and Wong, Donald and Ntchantcho, Romaric and Pizarro, Jaime and Ying, Guang-Guo and Chen, Chang-Er and Páez, Martha and Martínez-Lara, Jina and Otamonga, Jean-Paul and Poté, John and Ifo, Suspense A. and Wilson, Penelope and Echeverría-Sáenz, Silvia and Udikovic-Kolic, Nikolina and Milakovic, Milena and Fatta-Kassinos, Despo and Ioannou-Ttofa, Lida and Belušová, Vladimíra and Vymazal, Jan and Cárdenas-Bustamante, María and Kassa, Bayable A. and Garric, Jeanne and Chaumot, Arnaud and Gibba, Peter and Kunchulia, Ilia and Seidensticker, Sven and Lyberatos, Gerasimos and Halldórsson, Halldór P. and Melling, Molly and Shashidhar, Thatikonda and Lamba, Manisha and Nastiti, Anindrya and Supriatin, Adee and Pourang, Nima and Abedini, Ali and Abdullah, Omar and Gharbia, Salem S. and Pilla, Francesco and Chefetz, Benny and Topaz, Tom and Yao, Koffi Marcellin and Aubakirova, Bakhyt and Beisenova, Raikhan and Olaka, Lydia and Mulu, Jemimah K. and Chatanga, Peter and Ntuli, Victor and Blama, Nathaniel T. and Sherif, Sheck and Aris, Ahmad Zaharin and Looi, Ley Juen and Niang, Mahamoudane and Traore, Seydou T. and Oldenkamp, Rik and Ogunbanwo, Olatayo and Ashfaq, Muhammad and Iqbal, Muhammad and Abdeen, Ziad and O’Dea, Aaron and Morales-Saldaña, Jorge Manuel and Custodio, María and de la Cruz, Heidi and Navarrete, Ian and Carvalho, Fabio and Gogra, Alhaji Brima and Koroma, Bashiru M. and Cerkvenik-Flajs, Vesna and Gombač, Mitja and Thwala, Melusi and Choi, Kyungho and Kang, Habyeong and Ladu, John L. Celestino and Rico, Andreu and Amerasinghe, Priyanie and Sobek, Anna and Horlitz, Gisela and Zenker, Armin K. and King, Alex C. and Jiang, Jheng-Jie and Kariuki, Rebecca and Tumbo, Madaka and Tezel, Ulas and Onay, Turgut T. and Lejju, Julius B. and Vystavna, Yuliya and Vergeles, Yuriy and Heinzen, Horacio and Pérez-Parada, Andrés and Sims, Douglas B. and Figy, Maritza and Good, David and Teta, Charles (2022) Pharmaceutical pollution of the world’s rivers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119 (8). ISSN 0027-8424

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Despite growing evidence of the deleterious effects on ecological and human health, little is known regarding the global occurrence of pharmaceuticals in rivers. Studies assessing their occurrence are available for 75 of 196 countries, with most research conducted in North America and Western Europe. This leaves large geographical regions relatively unstudied. Here, we present the findings of a global reconnaissance of pharmaceutical pollution in rivers. The study monitored 1,052 sampling sites along 258 rivers in 104 countries of all continents, thus representing the pharmaceutical fingerprint of 471.4 million people. We show that the presence of these contaminants in surface water poses a threat to environmental and/or human health in more than a quarter of the studied locations globally.Environmental exposure to active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) can have negative effects on the health of ecosystems and humans. While numerous studies have monitored APIs in rivers, these employ different analytical methods, measure different APIs, and have ignored many of the countries of the world. This makes it difficult to quantify the scale of the problem from a global perspective. Furthermore, comparison of the existing data, generated for different studies/regions/continents, is challenging due to the vast differences between the analytical methodologies employed. Here, we present a global-scale study of API pollution in 258 of the world’s rivers, representing the environmental influence of 471.4 million people across 137 geographic regions. Samples were obtained from 1,052 locations in 104 countries (representing all continents and 36 countries not previously studied for API contamination) and analyzed for 61 APIs. Highest cumulative API concentrations were observed in sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, and South America. The most contaminated sites were in low- to middle-income countries and were associated with areas with poor wastewater and waste management infrastructure and pharmaceutical manufacturing. The most frequently detected APIs were carbamazepine, metformin, and caffeine (a compound also arising from lifestyle use), which were detected at over half of the sites monitored. Concentrations of at least one API at 25.7% of the sampling sites were greater than concentrations considered safe for aquatic organisms, or which are of concern in terms of selection for antimicrobial resistance. Therefore, pharmaceutical pollution poses a global threat to environmental and human health, as well as to delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

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Journal Article
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
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24 Feb 2022 14:25
Last Modified:
21 Sep 2023 03:14