Human and environmental risk assessment of pharmaceuticals: differences, similarities, lessons from toxicology
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The presence of human and veterinary pharmaceuticals in the environment has caused increasing concern due their effects on ecological receptors. Improving the risk assessment of these compounds necessitates a quantitative understanding of their metabolism and elimination in the target organism (toxicokinetics), particularly via the ubiquitous cytochrome P-450 (CYP) system and their mechanisms of toxicity (toxicodynamics). This review focuses on a number of pharmaceuticals and veterinary medicines of environmental concern, and the differences and similarities between ecological and human risk assessment. CYP metabolism is discussed with particular reference to its ubiquity in species of ecological relevance. The important issue of pharmaceutical mixtures is discussed to assess how emerging technologies such as ecotoxicogenomics may assist in moving towards a more mechanism-based environmental risk assessment of pharmaceuticals.