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  • Wastewater & Onsite Systems | Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs)


    Why Are We Concerned About PPCPs?

    For decades, studies at local, regional, and national levels have documented the presence of pharmaceutical and personal care products in lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, and groundwater. These are a few of the reasons why these findings are a concern to NEIWPCC and our member states.

    Human Health Effects
    There are no human health effect studies on long-term exposure to pharmaceuticals and personal care products in water. Exposure studies confirm that many compounds, including endocrine disruptors, result in adverse effects on aquatic biota. Pharmaceutical and personal care product occurrence data, driven by a recent improvement in detection science, has only recently suggested a need to study the effects of long-term low-dose exposure of PPCPs on humans. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) noted in their 2007 fact sheet on Endocrine Disruptors that “although limited scientific information is available on the potential adverse human health effects, concern arises because endocrine disrupting chemicals, while present in the environment at very low levels, have been shown to have adverse effects in wildlife species, as well as in laboratory animals at low levels.”

    Americans and Prescriptions
    Americans buy more medicine per person than any other country. The average number of retail prescriptions filled per person per year increased from 7.9 prescriptions/year in 1994 to 12.4 prescriptions/year in 2006 (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, “Prescription Drug Trends,” May 2007). This data is even more concerning when paired with the current age distribution pattern in the United States suggests that the number of prescriptions written will only increase as the baby boomers continue to age and encounter health problems.

    The Water Community
    As an interstate water commission, NEIWPCC’s primary focus is on the impacts of pharmaceuticals and personal care products to the aquatic environment and water resources. While the water industry, both drinking water and wastewater, is not the cause of this problem, it has become responsible for the solution. Questions about PPCP removal rates for various wastewater and drinking water treatment processes are being asked for processes not designed to address pharmaceuticals. The drinking water and wastewater communities are beginning to address the concerns surrounding the discovery of pharmaceuticals in tap water and waters of our environment.

    Risk Communication Strategies
    States have identified a significant need for the development of communication strategies and public outreach programs to better inform the public about the implications of what the scientific community is finding, what state and federal officials are doing about the issues, and how citizens can help. Along the same vein, researchers and scientists conducting studies need better ways to share the data effectively with those that will benefit from it.



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