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Veterinary medicines in the environment.

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Cranfield Centre for EcoChemistry, Shardlow Hall, Shardlow, Derby DE72 2GN, UK.


The impact of veterinary medicines on the environment will depend on a number of factors including physicochemical properties, amount used and method of administration, treatment type and dose, animal husbandry practices, manure storage and handling practices, metabolism within the animal, and degradation rates in manure and slurry. Once released to the environment, other factors such as soil type, climate, and ecotoxicity also determine the environmental impact of the compound. The importance of individual routes into the environment for different types of veterinary medicines varies according to the type of treatment and livestock category. Treatments used in aquaculture have a high potential to reach the aquatic environment. The main routes of entry to the terrestrial environment are from the use of veterinary medicines in intensively reared livestock, via the application of slurry and manure to land, and by the use of veterinary medicines in pasture-reared animals where pharmaceutical residues are excreted directly into the environment. Veterinary medicines applied to land via spreading of slurry may also enter the aquatic environment indirectly via surface runoff or leaching to groundwater. It is likely that topical treatments have greater potential to be released to the environment than treatments administered orally or by injection. Inputs from the manufacturing process, companion animal treatments, and disposal are likely to be minimal in comparison. Monitoring studies demonstrate that veterinary medicines do enter the environment, with sheep dip chemicals, antibiotics, sealice treatments, and anthelmintics being measured in soils, groundwater, surface waters, sediment, or biota. Maximum concentrations vary across chemical classes, with very high concentrations being reported for the sheep dip chemicals. The degree to which veterinary medicines may adsorb to particulates varies widely. Partition coefficients (K(d)) range from low (0.61 L kg(-1)) to high (6000 L kg(-1)). The variation in partitioning for many of the compounds in different soils was significant (up to a factor of 30), but these differences could be not be explained by normalization to the organic carbon content of the soils. Thus, to arrive at a realistic assessment of the availability of veterinary medicines for transport through the soil and uptake into soil organisms, the K(oc) (which is used in many of the exposure models) may not be an appropriate measure. Transport of particle-associated substances from soil to surface waters has also been demonstrated. Veterinary medicines can persist in soils for days to years, and half-lives are influenced by a range of factors including temperature, pH, and the presence of manure. The persistence of major groups of veterinary medicines in soil, manure, slurry, and water varies across and within classes. Ecotoxicity data were available for a wide range of veterinary medicines. The acute and chronic effects of avermectins and sheep dip chemicals on aquatic organisms are well documented, and these substances are known to be toxic to many organisms at low concentrations (ng L(-1) to microg L(-1)). Concerns have also been raised about the possibility of indirect effects of these substances on predatory species (e.g., birds and bats). Data for other groups indicate that toxicity values are generally in the mg L(-1) range. For the antibiotics, toxicity is greater for certain species of algae and marine bacteria. Generally, toxicity values for antibacterial agents were significantly higher than reported environmental concentrations. However, because of a lack of appropriate toxicity data, it is difficult to assess the environmental significance of these observations with regard to subtle long-term effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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