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Investigating environmental sinks of macrolide antibiotics, and illicit drugs, with analytical chemistry

Project Purpose:
Development and application of analytical methodologies to investigate the source apportionments of macrolide antibiotics, and illicit drugs, in the environment.

Project Description(s):
This project was originally targeted at developing and applying methods to detect a variety of polar pharmaceuticals in wastewater. Then the method was re-tooled for biosolids. After confirming the presence of macrolide antibiotics, and illicit drugs, in both wastewaters and biosolids, there seemed to be a further need to investigate what, if any, other environmental sinks exist for these compounds. The objective of this research is to determine what, if any, environmental sinks the macrolide antibiotics (a class of widely used antibiotics in the US, Europe, and Latin America, e.g., azithromycin, clarithromycin and roxithromycin) and illicit drugs (e.g., methamphetamine, MDMA) apportion to. This will include: source waters, wastewaters, biosolids, wetland plants, sediments, and possibly fish tissue.

Project Outcomes:
Of special concern are the macrolide antibiotics, which are widely used for a variety of respiratory illnesses and for fighting staphylococcus infections. The recent literature has reported an increase in antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus infections. A better understanding of the environmental sources and sinks for these antibiotics will improve our understanding of exposure pathways for humans and possibly bacteria in the environment. With regard to the illicit drugs, data on their environmental occurrence and concentrations can improve our knowledge regarding societal consumption patterns.

Tammy Jones-Lepp at jones-lepp.tammy@epa.gov

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