Pharmaceuticals in the Canadian Environment

  • C. Metcalfe
  • X.-S. Miao
  • W. Hua
  • R. Letcher
  • M. Servos


One of the first reports of the release of pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs) into the environment was a study conducted in Canada on the concentrations of selected drugs in the effluent from a Vancouver sewage treatment. Two analgesic/antiinflammatory drugs, ibuprofen and naproxen were identified in the municipal wastewater from Vancouver (Rogers et al. 1986). Since that study, the issue of the release of PhACs into the environment has developed into an area of emerging interest (Halling-Sørensen et al. 1998; Daughton and Ternes 1999; Servos et al. 2001, 2002; Heberer 2002a,b). Most of these drugs or their metabolites are excreted or are discarded into urban wastewaters and eventually make their way to wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Within WWTPs, drugs may be rapidly degraded and mineralised, or these substances (or their metabolites) may be relatively persistent. Hydrophilic compounds that are resistant to degradation may remain dissolved in the aqueous phase of the WWTP effluent, or more hydrophobic substance may bind to WWTP biosolids (i.e. “sludge”). Thus, these compounds may enter the environment through the discharge of WWTP effluents into receiving waters, or they may enter the environment in association with biosolids that are deposited in landfills or spread on agricultural land for soil amendment. PhACs bound to biosolids may leach into underlying groundwater, which may be used as a source of potable water (Heberer 2002a,b; Sacher et al. 2001). PhACs applied to agricultural fields may also be transported by runoff into the surrounding surface water. PhACs discharged into surface water have the potential to contaminate sources of drinking water (Heberer et al.1997, 2001).


Tiaprofenic Acid Clofibric Acid Acidic Drug Drinking Water Treatment Plant Pipemidic Acid 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Metcalfe
  • X.-S. Miao
  • W. Hua
  • R. Letcher
  • M. Servos

There are no affiliations available

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