Researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) have developed a new tool to effectively predict environmental risk of pharmaceutical products.
Most synthetic chemical products used in consumer goods end up unchanged in the environment, which could be harmful to human and wildlife.
"This is of greater concern in the case of water treated for human consumption, in which we are increasingly detecting a cocktail of drugs at low concentrations (nanograms per litre), the long-term effect of which is unknown," Xavier Domenech, co-author of the study and a researcher at the Department of Chemistry of the UAB, said.
The new tool, developed by Marc Ribera, lead author of the study, uses some physical-chemical properties of pharmaceuticals and the rate of growth in their use in Spain between 1999 and 2006 to determine how they will behave in the environment.
The drugs analysed are those that are most commonly consumed in Spain including, among many others, ibuprofen, diazepam, naproxen, omeprazole and paracetamol.
In order to validate the model, the research team compared the model's prediction results on water with values measured by authors in rivers and lakes.
"The model used is good at predicting the experimental data, and can be seen as a good predictive model for evaluating the environmental risks of current drugs and those that may be marketed in future," concluded Domenech.
The study has been published in Water Air and Soil Pollution.