Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

OECD report launch: "Pharmaceutical Residues in Freshwater: Hazards and Policy"

Tuesday 27 August | 11.00-11.30
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Pharmaceuticals are essential for human and animal health. However, increasingly they are recognised as a contaminant of emerging concern to environmental and human health when their residues enter freshwater systems. For example: psychiatric drugs alter fish behaviour; endocrine disrupting pharmaceuticals can cause reproduction toxicity in fish and increased risk of breast or prostate cancer in humans; and the overuse of antibiotics is linked to antimicrobial resistance – a global health crisis. Unless action is taken, the situation is set to worsen with growing use of pharmaceuticals projected with economic growth, ageing populations, advances in healthcare, and increased livestock and fish production.

The OECD report “Pharmaceutical Residues in Freshwater: Hazards and Policy Responses” helps to close the science-policy loop. It provides policy guidance to cost-effectively reduce pharmaceuticals in freshwater, and their associated risks to human and environmental health. Voluntary participation alone will not deliver; economic and regulatory drivers from central government are needed. Ultimately, a life-cycle approach combining a policy mix of source-directed, use-orientated and end-of-pipe measures, involving several policy sectors, is required to effectively deal with pharmaceuticals across their life-cycle.

Hannah Leckie, OECD Environment Directorate
Marc de Rooy, Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, Netherlands