Bioactive pharmaceuticals and hormones are increasingly recognized as emerging environmental contaminants that may present potential human and ecosystem health risks. Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs)—including antibiotics, anti-depressants, steroids, seizure medications, painkillers, tranquilizers, and many others—have been found in water bodies world-wide.
Since 2008, PRI has embarked on a number of projects pertaining to better understanding the occurrence, fate, and transport of PPCPs and hormones and also strategies for mitigation. It has also established a number of education and outreach components, including exhibits, symposia, seminars, conferences, posters, videos, and a PPCP consortium (now expanded to be the Emerging Contaminants consortium), to bring awareness to educators, students, researchers, healthcare professionals, and the general public about PPCP issues, including proper disposal of unwanted medications.
Through these various PPCP projects, PRI has shared its research results with other researchers and stakeholders and has also increased the public’s and healthcare professionals’ knowledge about PPCPs, specifically their sources and potential impacts on human, animal, and environmental health. For example, collaborative work by PRI researchers with others has shown that triclosan, a common antibacterial agent in soaps and health care products, can cause antibiotic-resistance in bacteria in Illinois rivers and streams. Currently, Illinois legislators are working on a bill (HB3462) to ban the sale in Illinois of any products that contain triclosan to prevent unwanted environmental or human health effects. Last fall the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned using triclosan in antibacterial soaps (effective September 2017). Research on residual contaminants in wastewater from animal feeding operations is leading to pilot testing of a new treatment method to reduce pharmaceuticals and hormones in farm wastewater. Other research has suggested improvements for municipal and rural lagoon system wastewater treatment plants. A large-scale pilot project is being conducted at the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant in Chicago. Outreach efforts in partnership with IL-IN Sea Grant have promoted dropbox programs for the collection of unwanted/unused medications throughout the state. Over 75 people attended the 2016 PPCPs in the Environment Conference organized by PRI and IL-IN Sea Grant, and 75 – 100 people are expected for the 2017 conference on Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment, which includes PPCP contaminants.
Contact: Nancy Holm