Health Collaborative Assesses Pharmaceutical Issue

The Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative (the Collaborative) held its inaugural Environmental Health Summit in November, assembling 150 experts to discuss "Pharmaceuticals in Water: What We Know, Don't Know and Should Do."

Representatives from EPA, FDA and USGS provided background information on the major environmental and potential human health issues and the current regulatory considerations. The European perspective also was presented. Following these plenary presentations, four working groups met for the remaining day-and-a-half to determine the central questions and recommendations related to sources, fate, and transport of pollutants; human/ecological effects/risks; best management practice; and education and communication.

In a Dec. 2 press release, the Collaborative issued this statement as an overall assessment: "If your drinking water meets current U.S. standards, your drinking water is considered safe and drinkable. We recognize that trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in combination with other chemicals have been found in water. These substances are coming from a variety of sources and are difficult to remove. There is limited information on how long-term, low-dose exposures affect humans and wildlife. U.S. standards may need to be developed for pharmaceutical compounds in drinking water or in aquatic systems as more information becomes available."

Each of the working groups identified the major issues, made recommendations and, in some cases, prioritized them. The Collaborative will summarize this information into a report to be published and presented to various government bodies in 2009. For more information, go to