Pharmaceuticals are synthetic or natural chemicals that can be found in prescription medicines, over-the-counter therapeutic drugs and veterinary drugs. Pharmaceuticals contain active ingredients that have been designed to have pharmacological effects and confer significant benefits to society.
The occurrence of pharmaceuticals in the environment and the water cycle at trace levels (in the range of nanograms to low micrograms per litre) has been widely discussed and published in literature in the past decade. The increase in detection is largely attributable to the advances in analytical techniques and instrumentation. Many surveys and studies have confirmed the presence of pharmaceuticals in municipal wastewater and effluents, and these have been identified as a major source of pharmaceuticals in drinking water.
During any use of water recirculation there is the potential to find traces of pharmaceutical products. This is largely due to the circle of human consumption, excretion, sewage, sewage treatment plant, surface water, drinking water. This is shown in the diagram below:
As the recirculation of water is unlikely to cease the filtration of these pharmaceutical products out of the water stream is going to be a continuing problem faced by providers and consumers. The additional consequences of other large commercial entities dumping pharmaceutical products in waste water is far from being realised with potential consequences to become apparent in years to come.
WHO information sheet – Pharmaceuticals in drinking water
What’s in the Water