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Environ Int. 2010 Feb;36(2):153-62. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2009.10.003. Epub 2009 Nov 20.

Environmental risk assessment of pharmaceuticals in rivers: relationships between hazard indexes and aquatic macroinvertebrate diversity indexes in the Llobregat River (NE Spain).

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Department of Environmental Chemistry, Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA), Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), C/ Jordi Girona, 18-26, 08034 Barcelona, Spain.


Continuous input of pharmaceuticals into rivers, through wastewater treatment systems, may cause adverse effects on the aquatic ecosystems of the receiving waterbodies, due to the intrinsic biological activity of these compounds. To investigate this issue, we have carried out an Environmental Risk Assessment in the lower part of the Llobregat River basin (NE Spain). The survey was carried out along three campaigns in 7 sampling points, located in the main river and in one of its tributaries (Anoia River). In each sample, 29 commonly used pharmaceuticals, belonging to different therapeutical classes (analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), lipid regulators, psychiatric drugs, anti-histamines, anti-ulcer agents, antibiotics and beta-blockers) have been determined. Simultaneously, the macroinvertebrate community status of the same points has been also studied. Hazard quotient indexes have been estimated for the most representative compounds as the ratio between concentrations and EC(50) reported values, for three bioassays commonly used in environmental toxicology, namely, fish, Daphnia and algae. Hazard indexes are obtained for each sample by summing up the hazard quotients of all the compounds present, and taking its average along the three sampling campaigns. In general, hazard quotients tend to increase when going downstream. Only those points located most upstream of the two rivers can be qualified under low risk for the three bioassays. The most sensitive bioassay seems to be algae, followed by Daphnia and fish. Log-transformed hazard indexes show fairly good inverse correlations (r=-0.58 to -0.93, p<0.05) with Shannon diversity indexes of macroinvertebrates, determined from both densities and biomasses. Best correlations are obtained for Daphnia based hazard indexes, as expected from its taxonomical proximity to macroinvertebrates. The abnormal correlation behaviour found in one point located in the Anoia River is explained by the presence of other previously reported pollutants of industrial origin, generated by the nearby existing industry.

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