What is it?

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are found in medicines, and health and cosmetics products. They include antibiotics, pain relievers, antimicrobials, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, cholesterol regulators, hormonal drugs, fragrances, detergents, caffeine, insect repellents and many other substances.

PCPPs tend to be found in freshwater and marine systems close to treated wastewater release locations, like a municipal wastewater treatment plant. PCPPS enter wastewater through the disposal of pharmaceuticals and the use of personal care products that get flushed down sinks, showers, and toilets. Waste water systems are often not well-equipped to remove PCPPs during the treatment process.

Pharmaceuticals may also enter waterways from agricultural runoff and at aquaculture sites, where antibiotics and hormonal drugs are given to domestic animals and fish.

Why do they matter?

PPCPs are often included in a category of substances referred to as contaminants of emerging concern, because we have only recently become aware of their presence in the environment and are still learning about their potential impacts and behaviour in aquatic systems.

These impacts can be negative. For example, hormonal drugs can interfere with the endocrine (hormonal) function of aquatic organisms. This can impair reproduction and affect gender ratios in fish and amphibian populations.

Antibiotics in the aquatic environment can contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria and pathogens. In addition, some PCPPs can accumulate in the tissues of aquatic organisms.

How are they measured?

PCPPs can be measured in water and sediment samples sent to a laboratory for analysis.

PPCPs are influenced by: some PCCPs are influenced by seasonal factors (for example lower temperatures decrease the efficiency of some wastewater treatment methods, while insect repellents are more commonly used in the summer).