Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

Volume 202 of the series Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology pp 53-154

Occurrence and Fate of Human Pharmaceuticals in the Environment

  • Sara C. MonteiroAffiliated withUniversity of York Email author 
  • , Alistair B.A. BoxallAffiliated withUniversity of YorkCentral Science Laboratory

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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).