Paper No. 10-0
DAUGHTON, Christian G., National Exposure Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 944 East Harmon Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89119,

Perhaps more so than with any other class of pollutants, the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the environment highlights the immediate, intimate, and inseparable connection between the individual activities of consumers and their environment. In contrast to other types of pollutants, PPCPs owe their environmental origins directly to their worldwide, universal, frequent, highly dispersed, and individually small but aggregate/cumulative usage and disposal by multitudes of individuals. An overview of this multi-faceted issue can be found at a U.S. EPA web site (, which also provides a reprint of an Environmental Health Perspectives review article.

PPCPs can enter the environment via excreta or wash water following their ingestion or application by users or their administration to domestic animals. Direct disposal of unused/expired PPCPs in landfills and domestic sewage is another route to the environment. Domestic sewage treatment plants are not specifically engineered to remove PPCPs; removal efficiencies vary from nearly complete to ineffective. The aquatic and groundwater environments serve as the major, ultimate receptacles for most PPCPs.

Little is known with respect to actual or even potential adverse effects on non-target species; human exposure via drinking water is even less understood. While PPCPs in the environment (or drinking water) are not regulated, and even though their concentrations are extremely low (ng/L-g/L), the consequences of exposure over multiple generations to multitudes of compounds having different as well as similar modes of biochemical action prompts a plethora of questions. Although the environmental issues involved with two classes antibiotics (e.g., selection for pathogen resistance) and sex steroids (e.g., aromatase disruption in fish) are widely recognized, numerous other therapeutic and consumer-use classes of PPCPs pose a wide range of additional environmental concerns.

The occurrence of PPCPs in the environment is undoubtedly not a new phenomenon probably having taken place ever since any given PPCP first enjoyed commercial use. The U.S. EPA and other federal/state agencies are just beginning to consider the many scientific aspects of this wide-ranging topic.

GSA Annual Meeting, November 5-8, 2001
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 10
The Emerging Discipline of Medical Geology
Hynes Convention Center: Ballroom B
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Monday, November 5, 2001

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