Assessment of Potential Human Health Effects
For purposes of this document, human health effects will refer to the process of identifying and characterizing potential health effects associated with environmental exposures in the general population and susceptible sugroups.
Assessment of Potential Ecological Effects
Assessing the potential ecological effects that a given environmental contaminant (i.e. a pharmaceutical) has on a species, populations or the ecosystem is known as ecotoxicology. This process is an ecological assessment.
Environmental Stewardship/ Public Communication
Environmental stewardship is a continual process, involving an array of actions by individuals, government agencies, private organizations and industry, that ensures sustainable protection of the environment and public health. Public communication is the process of establishing a productive dialogue with the public about the expected ecological and human health impacts that may result from the use of a given pharmaceutical.
Exposure Pathways: Human
When an individual human comes in contact with a foreign chemical or substance, he or she becomes exposed, whereby the chemical may be transferred from the environment onto/into the individual. The major route of exposure considered in this document is ingestion (drinking water or fish), although others may also be considered (e.g., dermal, inhalation).
Exposure Pathways: Ecological
For aquatic organisms, the main routes of exposure to be considered are contact and ingestion through soil, sediment, water and/or biota
Fate and transport
When a pharmaceutical is introduced into the environment, it may undergo chemical reactions to form a new substance (fate) and be physically transported to another location in the environment (transport) with the potential for distribution/deposition into other media. The fate of a pharmaceutical may include chemical, photolytic, and biological reactions that modify its structure and the physical transport of the compound into other environmental media. Important considerations include the temporal pattern of introduction (e.g., continual or intermittently) and the potential for concentration in environmental media (e.g., sediments) or bioconentration/bioaccumulation in aquatic organisms.
Monitoring and Detection Tools
Various Tools are available to aid in detecting, identifying, and quantifying pharmaceuticals in the environment, in humans, and in organisms. These may include biomonitoring and analytical chemistry.
There are many potential sources for pharmaceuticals prior to release into the environment. Some of the most common sources include human excretion and bathing, wastewater treatment plant discharges, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), land applications (e.g., biosolids and water reuse), manufacturing effluents, and direct disposal/introduction to environment.