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Knowledge and need assessment on pharmaceutical product in environmental waters

Final Report Summary - KNAPPE (Knowledge and need assessment on pharmaceutical product in environmental waters)

The continuous increase in pharmaceutical products (PPs) consumption, both by human and animals, imposes severe risks for water resources and aquatic species, since some PPs and their metabolites are not removed from water during conventional biological treatment and enter the soil and water supply via, mainly, urban wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). The substances' persistence increases the risk of long-term exposure which could be responsible for chronic toxicity and subtle effects in animals and plants.

Numerous relevant research projects were elaborated in the past; nevertheless the efforts were fragmentary, resulted in weak connections between the collected data and did not lead to a holistic understanding of the processes and problems related to PPs’ presence in the environment.

The KNAPPE project aimed to review the existing knowledge on PPs and to emphasise on occurrence, detection, fate, behaviour, removal treatments, environmental and health impacts of the substances and stewardship approaches. Moreover, priority actions within a sustainable development framework were identified in order to promote sustainable practices in the future.

The project considered the entire PPs' life cycle and proposed an integrated approach from manufacturing to environmental exposure. Data from various stages was collected, elaborated and presented to different stakeholders in order to motivate discussion and knowledge exchange. The project was structured in distinct work packages (WPs), which accomplished the following targets:
1. Examination of the presence of PPs in the aquatic environment, identification of information gaps and proposals for the establishment of indicators to elucidate the contamination source.
2. Assessment of WWTPs in order to determine inefficiencies' causes and effects and to promote strategies for improved performance. An innovative comparison of drinking and wastewater treatment processes was elaborated as part of this WP.
3. Review and evaluation of the existing European regulatory framework so as to identify gaps and pinpoint opportunities for the reduction of the discharge of PPs into water resources.
4. Investigation of the effects of PPs on human, aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Harmonisation of the different prioritisation strategies and available models, along with development of a database which integrated existing information was critical for proper investigation of the associated effects.
5. Evaluation of the potential of stewardship and vigilance to improve PPs' sustainability, identification of best practices and formulation of strategies for the development of safer products.

KNAPPE activities included, apart from extensive research elaboration, the organisation of four workshops and an international conference, which aimed to facilitate information and expertise exchange and to investigate options for future initiatives within the sector. The participants discussed all parameters related to PPs' presence within the environment and the events resulted in useful outcomes and several proposals for progress. Additional dissemination activities included the construction and maintenance of a project website as well as the preparation of newsletters, articles and other documentation. Finally, ten principal recommendations were highlighted in order to advance scientific and technical knowledge and to control the emission of PPs in the ecosystems and water resources.