Europe Devises Water Pollution Watch List for Drugs

Europe Devises Water Pollution Watch List for Drugs

July 10th, 2013 // 2:11 pm @


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Due to growing concern over prescription drugs leaching into water supplies, the European Parliament has put three pharmaceutical compounds on a watch list of pollutants, and these could at some point be put on a top priority list of known, dangerous pollutants.

The 3 compounds are:

  • Diclofenac – a common generic painkiller that is thought to possibly kill fish
  • 17 alpha-ethinylestradiol (EE2)
  • 17 beta-estradiol (E2)

The other two are hormones, and the EC believes that they can cause disruptions to the endocrine system in people and also can damage fish reproduction.

This move came as about a dozen other chemicals were put on a priority list in what is called the Water Framework Directive. This is a road map in the EU for monitoring any undesired emissions that may leach into lakes, rivers and other waters.

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Coming up with this watch list is a bit of a compromise. The drug industry had lobbied hard to stop the compounds from being listed at all on the Water Framework Directive. The drug makers said that the data that was listed by the EC was not enough to make a certain conclusion about the dangers.

The European Federation of National Associations of Water Services blasted the compromise because it stated that the proposal was seriously weakened. It said that there is a strong need to deal with water pollution by drug compounds, and this needs to happen at the source, not in water treatment plants downstream.

Effects that pharmaceutical products can have on water and fish is getting more attention these days. A study in 2008 by the AP found that the drinking water of 50 million Americans actually has low concentrations of many common drug products. This has caused efforts to try to contain how unused drugs are disposed of.

Regarding fish, in 2013, some scientists found that small amounts of the anti-anxiety drug oxazepam can make perch be more aggressive and overactive. A study in 2009 also found that small concentrations of antidepressants can make some minnows more vulnerable to various predators. Also, a study in 2011 found that APIs could be linked to sexual characteristic changes in wild gudgeon in France.


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