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Water Res. 2002 Dec;36(20):5013-22.

Aquatic environmental assessment of the top 25 English prescription pharmaceuticals.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Science and Technology, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, UK.


An environmental assessment is presented for the 25 most used pharmaceuticals in the National Health Service (NHS) in England in 2000. Predicted environmental concentrations (PECs) for the aquatic environment were calculated using conservative assumptions and all PECs exceeded 1 ng 1 (-1). The calculation of predicted no-effect concentration (PNEC) based on aquatic toxicity data from the literature was possible for eleven of the pharmaceuticals. PNECs were predicted with ECOSAR for 12 of the remaining 14 but no data was available for two of the compounds. The PEC/ PNEC ratio exceeded one for Paracetamol, Amoxycillin, Oxytetracycline and Mefenamic acid. Comparisons of the predicted concentrations of the compounds in sewage sludge based on either calculated sludge-water coefficients (Kd), octanol water coefficients (K(ow)), acid base constants (pKa) or environmental modelling revealed large variations. No toxicity data was available for the terrestrial environment and no assessment was made.

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