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Chemosphere. 2011 Sep;84(10):1336-48. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2011.05.014. Epub 2011 Jun 8.

Detection of pharmaceutically active compounds in the rivers and tap water of the Madrid Region (Spain) and potential ecotoxicological risk.

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Department of Preventive Medicine, Public Health, Immunology and Medical Microbiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Rey Juan Carlos University, Avda Atenas s/n, E-28922 Alcorcón, Madrid, Spain.


Concentrations of pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs) in the order of ng L(-1) to μg L(-1) have been reported worldwide in waste, fluvial and even drinking water, raising concern about the efficacy of the currently employed waste water treatments in the elimination of this kind of compounds. Despite ranking 29th in terms of population, Spain is currently the 8th country on pharmaceutical prescription with an expense of 14×10(9) euros in 2008. In this context, the aim of this study was to determine the presence of 33 pharmaceutically active compounds in specific points of the main rivers of the Madrid Region (MR) as well as tap water samples from the metropolitan area of Madrid. Additionally, a screening level risk characterization by means of the Hazard Quotient (HQ) method was applied. A total of 25 pharmaceutical compounds and metabolites were detected in the 10 sampling points downstream the outlet of the major STPs of the MR. The highest concentrations were detected for the anticonvulsant carbamazepine and the stimulant caffeine. Concentrations for most of the analyzed compounds exceed levels previously reported in the literature. Moreover, we report the highest concentration of the cytostatic ifosfamide, detected for the first time in Spain in surface water. Preliminary risk characterization shows that a total of 16 compounds represent at least a low potential hazard based on their scored HQs, with five of them present in a concentration that exceeds the predicted no effect concentration (PNEC). Toxic Units calculation indicates that for all the selected sampling points high hazard is anticipated from the presence of the analyzed compounds in the measured concentrations (TUs>10). Caffeine and cotinine were detected in all (10) the analyzed tap water samples. Carbamazepine and nicotine were detected in six and venlafaxine in two samples. No studies venlafaxine in drinking water have been reported. These results clearly pinpoint the need for water quality monitoring and research in urban rivers, as well as the need for improved water treatment techniques able to eliminate this kind of compounds from the effluent waters as well as from drinking water sources.

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