Pharmaceuticals in the Irish aquatic Environment

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Resource or Project Abstract

Executive Summary

In March 2008 the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funded a five year research project ?The assessment and potential human impact of exposure to environmental contaminants on marine and freshwater bivalves? (2007-DRP-3-S5) under the STRIVE Developing Environmental Research Potential (DERP) scheme. This project specifically investigated pharmaceuticals as environmental contaminants of emerging concern and arose out of the lack of research on the presence and potential impact these chemicals have on the Irish aquatic environment. Internationally pharmaceuticals have recently gained considerable attention and concern due to their possible toxicity and potential to cause adverse effects in aquatic organisms and the potential for direct human exposure via ingestion of contaminated seafood.
To assess the impact of a pollutant on the environment both chemical analysis (to identify the compounds and calculate their concentration) and biological analysis (to investigate their toxicity potential) must be undertaken. This project is therefore divided into two broad areas, chemistry and biology. The overall aim of this project was to combine chemical and biological analysis in an integrated assessment of the extent and the effects of pharmaceutical pollution in the Irish aquatic environment, with the ultimate aim of developing a simple bioassay for the fast, reliable identification and toxicological assessment of pharmaceuticals in environmental samples.


1. The development of a validated protocol for the identification and quantification of pharmaceuticals in various environmental matrices (effluent, marine water and biological tissue)
2. The measurement of chosen pharmaceuticals in municipal effluent, receiving marine waters and marine biota.
3. To assess the potential for human exposure via ingestion of contaminated seafood.
4. Investigate the toxic potential of pharmaceutical to aquatic organisms, focusing on sub-lethal, chronic effects.
5. Adaption of human diagnostic techniques for environmental monitoring (environmental diagnostics).

Key Outputs
Although a previous EPA funded study had reported the presence of pharmaceuticals in municipal effluents (Lacey et al., 2008) the current study is the only report on the spatial occurrence and relative distribution of pharmaceutical residues in the Irish marine environment and their bioaccumulation potential.
The information gathered using the developed analytical techniques has enhanced Ireland?s capacity towards the integrated monitoring of contaminants in the marine environment and these findings will contribute to future pharmaceutical fate studies and evaluations of the human risks posed by these emerging environmental pollutants.
The scope of the biological assessment presented in this report has provided vital knowledge of the potential toxic effects of pharmaceuticals on non-target aquatic organisms. The information gathered using biomarker techniques has also enhanced Ireland?s capacity towards the integrated pollution monitoring, providing valuable baseline data on biomarker responses.
Although not yet validated the use of human diagnostic techniques for environmental assessment has shown promising results, with the ability of these technologies to cross react and measure the appropriate endpoints in various aquatic species offering a potentially useful tool for environmental monitoring.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Brian Quinn
University of the West of Scotland

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Data, Files, Information Objects Related To This Project Resource

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Attachment Name and Download Link
Att 1    2007-DRP-3-S5._Pharmaceuticals_Aquatic_Env..pdf   (15.56 Mb)
Att 2    PhD_Thesis_Gillian_McEneff_2013.pdf   (2.14 Mb)
Att 3    PhD_Thesis_Wiebke_Schmidt_2012.pdf   (8.7 Mb)

Suggested Citation Information

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Author(s)Quinn, B.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationPharmaceuticals in the Irish aquatic Environment
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifier7a7d9d59-d140-11e4-8d3a-005056ae0019
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-06-17

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Quinn, B.   "Pharmaceuticals in the Irish aquatic Environment". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2024-06-17)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsPharmaceuticals, Diclofenac, Gemfibrozil, Effluent, Mussels
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2007-DRP-3-S5
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeWater Quality
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceNONE
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 3
Project Start Date Sunday 2nd March 2008 (02-03-2008)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Sunday 1st March 2009 (01-03-2009)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Monday 4th March 2013 (04-03-2013)
Published on SAFERMonday 23rd March 2015 (23-03-2015)
Date of Last EditMonday 23rd March 2015 at 09:41:51 (23-03-2015)
Datasets or Files Updated On Monday 23rd March 2015 at 09:41:51 (23-03-2015)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
We collected and tested treated municipal effluent from both Ringsend waste water treatment plant in Dublin and Mutton Island in Galway. Wild marine mussels (Mytilus edulis) were collected from near the outfall pipe in Ringsend. In Situ caged exposures of marine mussels (Mytilus spp.) were undertaken at Ringsend, Mutton island and Omey Island (Ga;way). Wild mussels were collected from Littermullen, Co Galway.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
When this project was established there was limited data on pharmaceutical in the Irish aquatic environment and non on the marine environment. As several pharmaceuticals (including diclofenac) have recently been added to the EU WFD watch list of chemical it was necessary to gain information about these compounds.
Supplementary Information
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