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J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Mar 22;54(6):2288-97.

Uptake of veterinary medicines from soils into plants.

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  • 1Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ, United Kingdom.


Medicines play an important role in the treatment and prevention of disease. Whereas the side effects on human and animal health resulting directly from treatment have been widely documented, only recently have the occurrence and fate of medicines in the environment and the potential consequences for human health been recognized as an issue warranting consideration. Medicines have been shown to be released to soils and to persist in the environment. This study was performed to investigate the potential for a range of veterinary medicines to be taken up from soil by plants used for human consumption and to assess the potential significance of this exposure route in terms of human health. Soil analyses indicated that, for selected substances, measurable residues of these are likely to occur in soils for at least 5 months following application of manure containing these compounds. Experimental studies on the uptake of veterinary medicines into carrot roots (tubers) and lettuce leaves showed that only florfenicol, levamisole, and trimethoprim were taken up by lettuces, whereas diazinon, enrofloxacin, florfenicol, and trimethoprim were detected in carrot roots. Measured concentrations in plant material were used to model potential adult human exposure to these compounds. Although exposure concentrations were appreciable in a few instances, accounting for approximately 10% of the acceptable daily intake values (ADI), all were lower than the ADI values, indicating that, at least for compounds with properties similar to those considered here, there is little evidence of an appreciable risk. This exposure route may, however, be important when veterinary medicines have a very low ADI, at which they elicit subtle effects over prolonged periods, or when exposure is occurring via a number of routes at once. Although degradation products (produced in the soil or the plant) were not measured, it is possible for some substances that these could increase the risks to consumers.

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