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Occurrence, persistence and impact of pharmaceuticals and personal care products-ppcps in transitional and coastal waters

Final Activity Report Summary - PPCPS-TRANSWATER (Occurrence, persistence and impact of pharmaceuticals and personal care products-ppcps in transitional and coastal waters)

This research was conducted at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (UK) through the Marie Curie Fellowship (EIF). Improvements have been achieved in chemical analytical methods for the determination of the most relevant pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), as well as other related sewage contaminants. These have been evaluated and validated on a variety of aquatic samples. Detection has been optimised using large volume injection techniques (LVI) for gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (LVI-GC/MS) by means of a Programmed Temperature Vaporising (PTV) injector. The procedures have been applied to final effluents, river, estuarine and coastal waters, and the results show for first time, the presence of the selected compounds in effluent waters and transitional waters (i.e. estuarine and coastal waters) in the south west of the UK. These results have been presented to scientific international conferences, and research publications have been submitted and others are in preparation.

An intensive sampling programme during the research fellowship has been undertaken which allowed monitoring of PPCPs into the transitional waters. The phase distributions between dissolved, particulate matter and sediments of the Tamar and Plym estuaries (near the city of Plymouth) have been investigated. These environmental compartments have also been screened for other relevant chemicals (e.g. polycyclic musk fragrances) which were not specified in the original proposal but which were identified in transitional water samples. In collaboration with South West Water Ltd. (the water company in the area), final effluents from the main 4 sewage treatment plants (STP) discharging into these estuaries were also monitored and were confirmed as the main sources of these chemicals into the coastal environment. Evaluation of the dataset on PPCPs led to the conclusion that, despite the inputs into the transitional waters of the PPCPs and other chemicals of concern (e.g. phenols, steroids and synthetic fragrances), concentrations are relatively low when compared to published ecotoxicological effects levels. However, to fully evaluate the threat posed by these compounds to the environment, research needs to be extended to investigate the occurrence and environmental behaviour of their metabolites and chemical degradation products in order to assess accurately the impact of these compounds in the environment.

The research activities under the EIF were carried out within the timetable proposed in the work plan. In addition, and to support the investigations into other chemical groups, a MSc (in Applied Marine Science) student from the University of Plymouth was co-supervised. She achieved a Distinction for her project entitled: "Occurrence and distribution of synthetic musk fragrances in sewage effluent, estuarine and coastal environments determined by PTV-GC/MS".

Futhermore, in collaboration with a pharmaceutical company which expressed their interest in the Marie Curie funded research (AstraZeneca at their Brixham Environmental Laboratory), assessment through modelling has been undertaken using the analytical dataset of PPCPs generated through the project. Outputs from the model have been plotted using a GIS software, and provides spatial and temporal distributions. Results have highlighted locations of most concern. Joint research publications will be submitted to environmental journals.