Occurrence and Fate of Human Pharmaceuticals in the Environment

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Pharmaceuticals from a wide spectrum of therapeutic classes are used in human medicine worldwide. Pharmaceutically active compounds are defined as substances used for prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease and for restoring, correcting or modifying organic functions (Daughton and Ternes 1999). Pharmaceuticals include more than 4000 molecules with different physico-chemical and biological properties and distinct modes of biochemical action (Beausse 2004). Most medical substances are administrated orally. After administration, some drugs are metabolised, while others remain intact before being excreted. Therefore, a mixture of pharmaceuticals and their metabolites will enter municipal sewage and sewage treatment plants (STP; Kümmerer 2004).