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Rx for Action

A blog devoted to helping people find local medicine take-back programs and highlighting current research findings and pending legislation.

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PPCPs: What are the big questions?

By now, most people have heard about pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) finding their way into the environment and into our drinking water supplies. With over 4,000 pharmaceuticals currently in use, and a myriad of chemicals used to make personal care products, it's no wonder that scientists haven't yet figured out how all these chemicals might react with one another or what the long-term effects on people might be. But they are diligently working on it.

Since time and money are limiting factors, key research questions must be identified. That was the recent goal of an international group from academia, government and industry. They identified a "top 20" list of questions that still need to be answered in order to better manage PPCPs in the environment. Their findings were published recently in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Their "Top 20" list:
1. What approaches should be used to prioritize PPCPs for research on environmental and human health exposure and effects?
2. What are the environmental exposure pathways for organisms (including humans) to PPCPs in the environment and are any of these missed in current risk assessment approaches?
3. How can the uptake of ionizable PPCPs into aquatic and terrestrial organisms and through food chains be predicted?
4. What is the bioavailability of non-extractable residues of PPCPs?
5. How can pharmaceutical preclinical and clinical information be used to assess the potential for adverse environmental impacts of pharmaceuticals?
6. What can be learned about the evolutionary conservation of PPCP targets across species and life stages in the context of potential adverse outcomes and effects?
7. How can ecotoxicological responses, such as histological and molecular-level responses, observed for PPCPs, be translated to traditional ecologically important endpoints such as survival, growth and reproduction of a species?
8. How can ecotoxicity test methods, which reflect the different modes of actions of active PPCPs, be developed and implemented in customized risk assessment strategies?
9. How can effects from long-term exposure to low concentrations of PPCP mixtures on non-target organisms be assessed?
10. Can non-animal testing methods be developed that will provide equivalent or better hazard data compared to current in vivo methods?
11. How can regions where PPCPs pose the greatest risk to environmental and human health, either now or in the future, be identified?
12. How important are PPCPs relative to other chemicals and non-chemical stressors in terms of biological impacts in the natural environment?
13. Do PPCPs pose a risk to wildlife such as mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians?
14. How can the environmental risks of metabolites and environmental transformation products of PPCPs be assessed?
15. How can data on the occurrence of PPCPs in the environment and on quality of ecosystems exposed to PPCPs be used to determine whether current regulatory risk assessment schemes are effective?
16. Does environmental exposure to PPCP residues result in the selection of antimicrobial resistant micro-organisms and is this important in terms of human health outcomes?
17. How can the risks to human health, arising from antibiotic resistance selection by PPCPs in the natural environment, be assessed?
18. If a PPCP has an adverse environmental risk profile what can be done to manage and mitigate the risks?
19. What effluent treatment methods are effective in reducing the effects of PPCPs in the environment while at the same time not increasing the toxicity of whole effluents?
20. How can the efficacy of risk management approaches be assessed?

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Posted by Laura Kammin at 10:10AM on 7/31/2012
Categories: In the News Resources