European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 57, Issue 5, pp 1107–1114 | Cite as

Qualitative detection of the NSAIDs diclofenac and ibuprofen in the hair of Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) occupying UK waterways with GC–MS

  • Ngaio L. Richards
  • Gemma Cook
  • Vic Simpson
  • Sarah Hall
  • Nancy Harrison
  • Karen S. Scott
Short Communication


The pervasiveness of pharmaceuticals such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the aquatic ecosystem through the discharge of wastewater, and their potential to biomagnify within this ecosystem, is now recognised. Residues of diclofenac and ibuprofen are currently being detected in surface waters and aquatic organisms throughout the UK and Europe. However, the levels of these residues in fish and other aquatic organisms, particularly lower trophic level prey species, have not yet been determined. While exposure to diclofenac is known to adversely affect fish, the degree to which other aquatic organisms are exposed and impacted through continuous ingestion of contaminated prey and interaction with the aquatic habitat remains unknown. The extent and effects of exposure to ibuprofen also remain largely unknown. As an exploratory subset of a broader study to investigate the detectability of diclofenac in alternative biological matrices, we analysed hair samples from Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra, n = 28) for residues of the two NSAIDs using GC–MS. The otters were collected from six counties in England as part of an ongoing otter health monitoring project at the Wildlife Veterinary Investigation Centre in Chacewater, UK. Diclofenac was qualitatively detected in five hair wash and 15 extract samples, and ibuprofen was determined to be present in at least two of the hair extract samples. Here, we provide preliminary evidence that otters are exposed to both NSAIDs and argue for further studies to identify residue loads in the otters and their prey to fully assess the pervasiveness of these compounds and potential risks of ongoing exposure to them.


Non-invasive monitoring Aquatic ecosystem contamination Pharmaceutical contamination Hair analysis NSAID 



Ngaio Richards is indebted to the Foundation for Analytical Science & Technology in Africa (FASTA) for the loan of the Mi-Vac sample condenser and to Dr Richard Shore for facilitating this collaborative work. Vic Simpson would like to thank Fieke Molenaar and Jane Simpson for their assistance with post-mortem examinations, and the Environment Agency for co-ordinating and funding the otter project. Initial drafts of this manuscript were greatly improved by review from Dr Steven Lancaster.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ngaio L. Richards
    • 1
  • Gemma Cook
    • 1
  • Vic Simpson
    • 2
  • Sarah Hall
    • 1
  • Nancy Harrison
    • 1
  • Karen S. Scott
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Life SciencesAnglia Ruskin UniversityCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Wildlife Veterinary Investigation CentreCornwallUK
  3. 3.Forensic Medicine and ScienceUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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