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Screening level mixture risk assessment of pharmaceuticals in STP effluents

Journal article
Authors Thomas Backhaus
Maja Karlsson
Published in Water Research
Volume 49
Pages 157-165
ISSN 0043-1354
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 157-165
Language en
Keywords Concentration Addition, Mixture risks, Pharmaceuticals in the environment, Chronic toxicity, Ecotoxicological risks, Independent action, Individual risks, Mixture components, Pharmaceutical mixtures, Rough approximations, Mixtures, Risk perception, Toxicity, Risk assessment, acebutolol, aminophenazone, betaxolol, bezafibrate, carbamazepine, chemicals and drugs, ciprofloxacin, clofibrate, clofibric acid, diclofenac, enoxacin, fenofibrate, fenoprofen, flurbiprofen, gemfibrozil, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, lomefloxacin, metoprolol, naproxen, norfloxacin, ofloxacin, oxprenolol, phenazone, propranolol, sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, aquatic organism, concentration (composition), drug, ecotoxicology, effluent, numerical model, pollution effect, risk factor, stream, alga, article, dilution, environment, fish, invertebrate, nonhuman, priority journal, screening, sewage treatment plant
Subject categories Ecology


We modeled the ecotoxicological risks of the pharmaceutical mixtures emitted from STP effluents into the environment. The classic mixture toxicity concept of Concentration Addition was used to calculate the total expected risk of the analytically determined mixtures, compare the expected impact of seven effluent streams and pinpoint the most sensitive group of species. The risk quotient of a single, randomly selected pharmaceutical is often more than a factor of 1000 lower than the mixture risk, clearly indicating the need to systematically analyse the overall risk of all pharmaceuticals present. The MCR, which is the ratio between the most risky compound and the total mixture risk, varies between 1.2 and 4.2, depending on the actual scenario and species group under consideration. The mixture risk quotients, based on acute data and an assessment factor of 1000, regularly exceed 1, indicating a potential risk for the environment, depending on the dilution in the recipient stream. The top 10 mixture components explain more than 95% of the mixture risk in all cases.A mixture toxicity assessment cannot go beyond the underlying single substance data. The lack of data on the chronic toxicity of most pharmaceuticals as well as the very few data available for invivo fish toxicity has to be regarded as a major knowledge gap in this context. On the other hand, ignoring Independent Action or even using the sum of individual risk quotients as a rough approximation of Concentration Addition does not have a major impact on the final risk estimate. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

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