WQ1305:             Emerging Contaminants: Pharmaceuticals in the Environment

Speaker:              Julie Becker, MA, PhD, MPH

 

Pharmaceuticals are emerging contaminants in water and, to date, cannot be removed as part of wastewater treatment options. So what can be done to mitigate their effects upon the environment, yet maintain their efficacy for human and animal use? In this session, we examine this topic from a lifecycle approach using hands-on demonstrations, and discuss several solutions and policies you can take home to mitigate and address these contaminants in your community.

 

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Pharmaceuticals are emerging contaminants in water and, to date, cannot be removed as part of waste water treatment options. So what can be done to mitigate their effects upon the environment, yet maintain their efficacy for human and animal use? This presentation will present research about the nature and scope of these contaminants, which ones are the most pervasive, and will consider a lifecycle approach to mitigating and reducing the effects of unwanted, unused, or expired medications.

 

Three recommendations will be discussed through context of pilot research projects conducted in the Southeastern Pennsylvania region:

1.       public education about medications as universal waste;

2.       the nature of switching medications within a short period and the prospective effects of short cycling on prescribing medications through economic modeling; and

3.       the potential implementation of an ecotoxicity model similar to the Swedish model in closed medical systems.

 

Public education about treating medications as universal waste through a campaign in community pharmacies has increased public knowledge about this option by more than 33%. Examining electronic medical records in the Veterans Administration is showing that switching medications within a three-month period is common (>30%) among some classifications of pharmaceuticals and the implementation of short cycling can save healthcare costs as well as limiting the wasting of medications.

 

Lastly, an analysis of ecotoxicity models implemented in Europe has suggested the possibilities of replication in the U.S., especially within closed systems like the Veterans Administration. As the population continues to gain weight, with its associated chronic diseases and continues to age with many health concerns requiring medications, pharmaceuticals will no longer be emerging but become a reality that environmental health and public health officials will need to grapple with in order to insure the perception of safe, viable drinking water.

 

participating in international efforts on reducing pharmaceutical waste.