Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 18, Issue 9, pp 1555–1566 | Cite as

Pharmaceuticals in the environment: an educational perspective

  • Marco Eissen
  • Donata Backhaus
Research Article



Pharmaceuticals are an integral part of a dignified life. However, a lack of degradability and threats to the welfare of living beings cause concern due to their emission into the environment. There is also a lack of knowledge about cause and consequence. Therefore, we intend to contribute to the development of educational programmes which should increasingly include the topic ‘pharmaceuticals in the environment’.


Considering the current literature, we developed a corresponding series of worksheets (Online Resource) and sample solutions on an introductory level and integrated them into our curriculum.


The material compiled for the worksheets was arranged in a logical order and considers several subtopics. The worksheets aim to support the examination of related aspects such as environmental effects, emissions, wastewater treatment plants, degradation, degradation by-products, advanced oxidation processes, hydraulic retention times, half-life times, biosolids, exposition pathways, precautionary principle, classification schemes for pharmaceuticals and, related to the structure–activity relationship, the design for degradability. The students managed to work on the tasks in an appropriate manner and received a good overview of the occurrence and fate of pharmaceuticals in the environment.


Tasks that were presented to students regarding the topic ‘pharmaceuticals in the environment’ contributed to a better understanding of the possible risks of medical care on an introductory level. The tasks have been incorporated into a logic series of worksheets (Online Resource) with sample solutions available. Alternatively, the material would be appropriate for the preparation of a corresponding lecture on this topic.


Educational material Degradability Green pharmacy Water contamination Endocrine disruptors Mixtures Environmental risks Risk mitigation 



Wastewater treatment plant

Supplementary material

11356_2011_512_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2.4 mb)
Worksheets concerning the topic ‘Pharmaceuticals in the environment’ (DOC 2.40 mb)


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© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gymnasium GanderkeseeGanderkeseeGermany

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