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Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Canadian Environment: Research and Policy Directions

4.3 Developing a Monitoring Network

At the 2004 workshop “Towards a Monitoring Network”, participants identified the need to develop a monitoring network to increase the understanding of the presence and potential risks of PPCPs in the environment. It was proposed that a monitoring network could include concentrations of PPCPs in a variety of matrices and population dynamics of selected “sentinel” species. Group discussions focused on the elements of an action plan to initiate a monitoring network.

A monitoring network should include a website sub-divided into the following subject areas:

  • Sources, loads and watershed mass balances;
  • Fate through WWTPs;
  • Fate through water treatment plants;
  • Concentrations in environmental matrices: sediment, groundwater, surface water, biota, etc.;
  • Ecological risk assessment and reports of field studies on effects;
  • Human health risk assessment; and
  • Analytical methods.

The purpose of the website would be to archive existing data, aid in the formation of hypotheses, support risk assessment exercises, and to help coordinate scientific research planning. Such an information source would identify collaboration opportunities, help to prevent duplication of efforts, and provide baseline data.

A monitoring network should be led at the national level and include champions from Environment Canada and Health Canada. The model for this network could be based on previous experience with the Toxic Substances Research Initiative (TSRI) or the Sustainable Forestry Management Network.

The monitoring should include compounds that are indicators of each major source of PPCPs to the environment (e.g. carbamazepine as a tracer for WWTP effluents) and compounds in high use. There are 10 to 15 compounds with various chemical and physical properties previously identified through categorization.

Strategic watersheds across Canada could be selected for intense and seasonal study. The watershed should be large, such as the Georgia Basin ecosystem or the St. Lawrence River basin.

The information generated from the monitoring should be available to scientists through portals on the website. Interpreted and peer reviewed results could be made available to the public.

A number of next steps were identified for implementing the monitoring network:

  • Nominating champions from each region (the Water Quality Monitoring and Surveillance Directorate of Environment Canada is preparing a research project to rationalize water monitoring activities; research on human health effects from drinking water would be led by Health Canada);
  • Establishing a Technical Steering Committee to help guide the process;
  • Investigating what networks currently exist and examine different models (for example,,,; or;
  • Identifying who has resources to contribute;
  • Identifying who is able to take the lead role;
  • Investigating Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) methods and developing inter-laboratory comparisons; and
  • Prioritizing the compounds currently being monitored.
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