York scientists identify key questions on the impact of PPCPs
Posted on 31 May 2012
Researchers at the University of York headed a major international review aimed at enhancing efforts to better understand the impacts of chemicals used in pharmaceuticals or in personal care products, such as cosmetics, soaps, perfumes, deodorants and toothpastes (PPCPs), on the natural environment.
the last two decades, scientists and regulators have raised concerns over the
potential environmental effects and risks of the 4,000 pharmaceuticals and
substantial number of personal care products that are used by society.
This exercise has prioritised the most critical questions to aid
in development of future research programmes and policy development on this important topic
use, these substances can be released to the sewer system and can end up in
rivers, aquifers and soils. Many PPCPs have been detected in the natural
environment across the world. Though reported concentrations are generally low,
some people are worried that, due to the biological activity of these
substances, they could be adversely affecting the health of the environment and
may also be getting into drinking water supplies.
researchers in the University of York’s Environment Department, working with academic,
government and industry colleagues in the USA,
Canada, Germany, Sweden,
Switzerland, S. Korea and Argentina
identified key outstanding issues regarding the effects on human and ecological
health in order that future resources will be focused on the most important
areas. Their findings are published in the latest issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
developed a ‘Top 20’ list of questions about issues that need to be addressed
to better understand and manage the risks of PPCPs in the environment. An
international expert workshop reduced an initial list of 101 potential
questions to a final 20 ranked by importance.
top 20 questions fell into seven categories:
- Identification of PPCPs and situations that
research should be focussed on
- Understanding how PPCPs get into the natural
- Uptake of PPCPs from the environment into
- Assessment of effects on organisms
- Assessment of risks to people and the
- Antibiotic resistance
- Management of risks
Alistair Boxall, of the Environment Department at York, who led the review,
said: “A large body of information is now available on PPCPs in the
environment. This exercise has prioritised the most critical questions to aid
in development of future research programmes and policy development on this important topic. The development of the
‘top 20 list’ should mean that researchers, regulators and industry can begin
to work more closely together to answer the most pressing questions in a
coordinated and timely manner.”
Notes to editors:
- ‘Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products
in the Environment: What are the Big Questions?’ is published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
- More information on the University of York’s
Environment Department at http://www.york.ac.uk/environment/
- The Top 20 Questions are:
approaches should be used to prioritize PPCPs for research on environmental and
human health exposure and effects?
are the environmental exposure pathways for organisms (including humans) to
PPCPs in the environment and are any of these missed in current risk assessment
- How can the uptake of ionizable PPCPs
into aquatic and terrestrial organisms and through food chains be predicted?
- What is the bioavailability of
non-extractable residues of PPCPs?
- How can pharmaceutical preclinical and
clinical information be used to assess the potential for adverse environmental
impacts of pharmaceuticals?
can be learned about the evolutionary conservation of PPCP targets across
species and life stages in the context of potential adverse outcomes and
can ecotoxicological responses, such as histological and molecular-level
responses, observed for PPCPs, be translated to traditional ecologically
important endpoints such as survival, growth and reproduction of a species?
can ecotoxicity test methods, which reflect the different modes of actions of
active PPCPs, be developed and implemented in customized risk assessment
can effects from long-term exposure to low concentrations of PPCP mixtures on
non-target organisms be assessed?
- Can non-animal testing methods be
developed that will provide equivalent or better hazard data compared to
current in vivo methods?
- How can regions where PPCPs pose the
greatest risk to environmental and human health, either now or in the future,
- How important are PPCPs relative to
other chemicals and non-chemical stressors in terms of biological impacts in
the natural environment?
- Do PPCPs pose a risk to wildlife such as
mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians?
- How can the environmental risks of
metabolites and environmental transformation products of PPCPs be assessed?
- How can data on the occurrence of PPCPs
in the environment and on quality of ecosystems exposed to PPCPs be used to
determine whether current regulatory risk assessment schemes are effective?
- Does environmental exposure to PPCP
residues result in the selection of antimicrobial resistant micro-organisms and
is this important in terms of human health outcomes?
- How can the risks to human health,
arising from antibiotic resistance selection by PPCPs in the natural
environment, be assessed?
- If a PPCP has an adverse environmental
risk profile what can be done to manage and mitigate the risks?
- What effluent treatment methods are
effective in reducing the effects of PPCPs in the environment while at the same
time not increasing the toxicity of whole effluents?
- How can the efficacy of risk management
approaches be assessed?