John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Derivation of water quality guidelines for priority pharmaceuticals


Pharmaceuticals can enter freshwater and affect aquatic ecosystem health. Although toxicity tests have been carried out for the commonly used pharmaceuticals, evidence‐based water quality guidelines have not been derived. High reliability water quality guideline values (GVs) have been derived for four pharmaceuticals, carbamazepine, diclofenac, fluoxetine and propanolol in fresh waters using a Burr Type III distribution applied to species sensitivity distributions (SSDs) of chronic toxicity data. Data were quality assured and had to meet acceptability criteria for ‘chronic’ no observed effect concentrations (NOECs) or concentrations affecting 10% of species (EC10 values), endpoints of population relevance (namely, effect endpoints based on development, growth, reproduction and survival). Biomarker response data (e.g. biochemical, histological or molecular responses) were excluded from the derivation as they are typically not directly relevant to wildlife population‐related impacts. The derived GVs for 95% species protection were 4.3, 770, 1.6 and 14 µg/L for carbamazepine, diclofenac, fluoxetine and propranolol, respectively. These values are significantly higher than the unknown reliability values derived for the European Commission, Switzerland or Germany that are based on the application of assessment factors to the most sensitive experimental endpoint (which may include biochemical, histological or molecular biomarker responses) of a limited dataset. The GVs derived in this exercise were not exceeded in recent data for Australian rivers and streams receiving pharmaceutical containing effluents from WWTPs. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

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