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Chemosphere. 2000 Apr;40(7):783-93.

Environmental risk assessment of human pharmaceuticals in Denmark after normal therapeutic use.

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  • 1COWI Consulting Engineers and Planners, Lyngby, Denmark. fsl@cowi.dk


An environmental risk assessment is presented for the 25 most used pharmaceuticals in the primary health sector in Denmark. Predicted environmental concentrations (PECs) for the aquatic environment were calculated using conservative assumptions and all PECs exceeded 1 ng/l. Measured concentrations were in general within a factor of 2-5 of PECs and ranged from approximately 0.5 ng/l to 3 micrograms/l for nine of the pharmaceuticals reported in literature. The calculation of predicted no-effect concentration (PNEC) based on aquatic ecotoxicity data was possible for six of the pharmaceuticals. PEC/PNEC ratio exceeded one for ibuprofen, acetylsalicylic acid, and paracetamol. For estrogens the PEC/PNEC ratio approached one when non-standard test was used. The ratio was below one for estrogens (standard test), diazepam and digoxin. For the terrestrial compartment, toxicity data were not available, and no assessment was carried out. Comparisons of predicted concentrations of furosemide, ibuprofen, oxytetracycline and ciprofloxacin in sludge based on either preliminary experimental sludge-water partition coefficients (Kd), octanol-water coefficients (Kow) or acid-base constants (pKa) revealed large variations.

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