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Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products Surveillance Network

Program Overview

The Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products Surveillance Network operated by Environment Canada is designed to study the status of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Product pollutants, such as acidic and neutral drugs, in surface waters in Canada. The Network supports Environment Canada’s freshwater ecosystem approach to watershed management. The Network began operating in 2008 and built upon past regional surveillance projects, such as studies on the distribution of acidic and neutral pharmaceuticals and veterinary drugs in the Great Lakes Basin, the Fraser River Basin, prairie watersheds, fluvial systems (St. Lawrence River) and in marine/coastal watersheds of Eastern Canada. Currently, Network sites are strategically located in key watersheds across Canada.

Map showing monitoring stations for pharmaceuticals and personal care products in surface waters across CanadaMap showing monitoring stations for pharmaceuticals and personal care products in surface waters across Canada © Environment Canada

Sampling at Mill Creek near the mouth | Photo: © Environment Canada
Sampling at Mill Creek near the mouth

Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products refer, in general, to any products used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons, or used by agribusiness to enhance growth or health of livestock. Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products comprise a diverse collection of thousands of chemical substances, including prescription and over-the-counter therapeutic drugs, veterinary drugs, fragrances, and cosmetics. The main routes of entry of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products to the environment are:

  • municipal waste water treatment plants and septic fields;
  • disposal via municipal refuse in landfills that leach to groundwater; and
  • stormwater overflow from residential sources.

It has been known for over twenty years that pharmaceuticals and personal care products are released into the environment, however only in the last ten years have analytical methods become sufficiently sensitive to identify and quantify their presence in WWTP effluents, surface waters, drinking water, groundwater, biosolids, agricultural manures, and biota.

Objectives

The Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products Surveillance Network provides information for:

  • baseline data (status) on Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products;
  • determining spatial patterns of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products;
  • quantifying exposure levels and generating science-based information necessary to identify risks and inform risk management; and
  • understanding the environmental fate and behaviour of these chemicals.

Fraser at Agassiz sampling | Photo: © Environment Canada
Fraser at Agassiz sampling

Parameters Measured

  • Acidic drugs: Clofibric acid, Ibuprofen, Salicylic acid, Gemfibrozil, Fenoprofen, Naproxen, Ketoprofen, Tolfenamic acid, Diclofenac-Na, Indomethacin
  • Neutral drugs: Carbamazepine, Acetaminophen, Metoprolol, Albuterol, Amphetamine, Atenolol, Atorvastatin, Cimetidine, Clonidine, Codeine, Cotinine, Enalapril, Hydrocodone, Metformin, Oxycodone, Ranitidine
  • Antibacterial: Triclosan
  • Antibiotics: Anhydrochlortetracycline, Anhydrotetracycline, Chlortetracycline, Demeclocycline Doxycycline 4-Epianhydrochlortetracycline, 4-Epianhydrotetracycline, 4-Epichlortetracycline, 4-Epioxytetracycline, 4-Epitetracycline, Isochlortetracycline, Minocycline Oxytetracyclin, Tetracycline

Recent Publications

Metcalfe, C.D., X.S. Miao, B.G. Koenig and J. Struger. 2003. Distribution of acidic and neutral drugs in surface waters near sewage treatment plants in the lower Great Lakes, Canada. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 22: 2881-2889.

Servos, M.R., M. Smith, R. McInnis, K.B. Burnison, H.B. Lee, P. Seto and S. Backus. 2007. The presence of selected pharmaceuticals and the antimicrobial triclosan in drinking water in Ontario, Canada. Water Quality Research Journal of Canada 42(2): 130-137.

Verma, B., J.V. Headley and R.D. Robarts. 2007. Behaviour and fate of tetracycline in river and wetland waters on the Canadian Northern Great Plains. J. Environ. Sci. Health A Tox. Hazard. Subst. Environ. Eng. 42(2): 109-117.

Verma, B., R.D. Robarts and J.V. Headley. 2007. Impacts of tetracycline on planktonic bacterial production in prairie aquatic systems. Microb. Ecol. 54(1): 52-55.

Verma, B., R.D. Robarts and J.V. Headley. 2007. Effect of tetracycline on the colonization and growth of microbes on Scirpus lacustris litter in oligotrophic and eutrophic waters. Aquatic Microbial Ecology 47(1): 91-98.

Carrara, C., C.J. Ptacek, W.D. Robertson, D.W. Blowes, M.C. Moncur, E. Sverko and S. Backus. 2008. Fate of pharmaceutical and trace organic compounds in three septic system plumes, Ontario, Canada. Environmental Science and Technology 42: 2805-2811.

Lee, H.B., T.E. Peart, M.L. Svoboda and S. Backus. 2009. Occurrence and fate of rosuvastatin, rosuvastatin lactone, and astorvastatin in Canadian sewage and surface water samples. Chemosphere 77: 1285-1291.

Recent Reports

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

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products

U.S. Geological Survey: Toxic Substances Hydrology Program: Research Projects - Emerging Contaminants

For more information about the program, sampling methods, or to request data please send your inquiries to: ec.msqeinformation-wqmsinformation.ec@canada.ca.

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