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Europe - pharmaceuticals in the environment - Result of an EEA workshop
A decade ago, the European Environment Agency (EEA) and others first drew attention to the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals. Since then awareness has increased and research projects funded by the EU and others have expanded understanding of the use, exposure, fate, accumulation and impacts of pharmaceuticals in the environment. To help assess and disseminate the research findings to date, the EEA organised an expert workshop in January 2009. The workshop's conclusions, set out in the present report, highlight the need for action to improve further understanding and management of risks.
The situation looks worse than a decade ago Compared to 1999, there are grounds for increased concern.
We need to move from environmental risk assessment of a few drugs to far more comprehensive environmental stewardship of pharmaceuticals across their full life cycles, including manufacture.
Growing awareness of environmental impacts and the need to conduct tests to evaluate such effects are creating cost pressures for the pharmaceutical industry, incentivising the development of greener pharmacy. As the ratio of waste to useful product is very high in the pharmaceuticals sector, there is considerable need for greener pharmacy innovations that are 'benign by design'.
Used and unused pharmaceuticals have considerable implications for waste streams. The technical and economic burdens on both urban wastewater treatment and household waste management are considerable. This will have policy implications, bringing into question EU funding, full cost recovery via water treatment pricing, and the nature and efficiency of 'take back' schemes for unused medicines.
The general public and researchers have limited access to data and information on patterns of use, exposure scenarios and potential hazards of pharmaceuticals. The pioneering use ! of an environmental risk classification scheme for several hundred pha rmaceutical products in the Stockholm area is already proving useful for both health professionals and patients. It could be extended across Europe, with country-specific adaptations.
Copies of the report Pharmaceuticals in the environment [1.5 MB] can be collected from the EEA's website.