Consideration of the environmental impact of human pharmaceuticals in prescribing decisions

Adeolu Aderemi is an expert in Toxicology

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It’s #TechnicalTuesday so NCET Toxicologist Adeolu Aderemi is discussing how the environmental impact of human pharmaceuticals can be improved by prescribing decisions.

'The continuous discharge of human pharmaceuticals into our water bodies remains an ongoing global concern due to the threat they pose to aquatic organisms as well as humans. Some of these contaminants include endocrine disruptors and antibiotics. Apart from waste streams containing pharmaceuticals entering our environment from veterinary and industrial sources, we as humans (via excretion wastewater treatment works (WWTW)) are recognised as the greatest source of these pseudo-persistent contaminants in the environment.

Unfortunately, following consumption by patients, pharmaceuticals and their metabolites are excreted into the sewer and reach WWTW, which are unable to fully eliminate them leading to their frequent detection in surface water as well as drinking water. Since the advanced treatment technologies available to tackle this problem are cost- and energy intensive, source control such as taking environmental information into account in prescribing decisions has been recommended as a vital means of reducing the risk from pharmaceutical substances in the United Kingdom.

This is based on the selection criteria approach currently used by the Stockholm County Council in which formulary choice of recommended medicines for the Stockholm healthcare region (known as the Wise list) includes environmental considerations. Provided that the cost and clinical effectiveness of medicines can be balanced then their selection and prescription for human use should start to take their environmental or ecotoxicological impacts into consideration. What do you think?'

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Adeolu Aderemi


Adeolu is a Toxicologist within the NCET team at WRc and is a member of the British Toxicology Society. He has applied his expertise of ecotoxicological principles to EU funded INTERREG IVB NWE projects, PILLs (008B) and noPILLs in water, which monitored and assessed the effects of human pharmaceuticals in the environment. In 2019, he was involved in the Scottish Government funded CREW (Scotland’s centre of expertise for waters) project on human pharmaceuticals in the Scottish environment. With the publication of ten research papers in top international peer reviewed journals, with the most recent published in August 2021, Adeolu has experience in report writing and research and has been a part of a range of projects including the Pesticide Waiver Application for Thames Water.