Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Aquatic Environment: How Can Regions at Risk be Identified in the Future?

JL Wilkinson, I Thornhill, R Oldenkamp, A Gachanja, R Busquets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are an indispensable component of a healthy society. However, they are well-established environmental contaminants, and many can elicit biological disruption in exposed organisms. It is now a decade since the landmark review covering the top 20 questions on PPCPs in the environment (Boxall et al., 2012). In the present study we discuss key research priorities for the next 10 years with a focus on how regions where PPCPs pose the greatest risk to environmental and human health, either now or in the future, can be identified. Specifically, we discuss why this problem is of importance and review our current understanding of PPCPs in the aquatic environment. Foci include PPCP occurrence and what drives their environmental emission as well as our ability to both quantify and model their distribution. We highlight critical areas for future research including the involvement of citizen science for environmental monitoring and using modeling techniques to bridge the gap between research capacity and needs. Because prioritization of regions in need of environmental monitoring is needed to assess future/current risks, we also propose four criteria with which this may be achieved. By applying these criteria to available monitoring data, we narrow the focus on where monitoring efforts for PPCPs are most urgent. Specifically, we highlight 19 cities across Africa, Central America, the Caribbean, and Asia as priorities for future environmental monitoring and risk characterization and define four priority research questions for the next 10 years. Environ Toxicol Chem 2024;43:575–588.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-588
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number3
Early online date11 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024


  • Aquatic toxicology
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Environmental modeling
  • Personal care products
  • Pharmaceuticals


Dive into the research topics of 'Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Aquatic Environment: How Can Regions at Risk be Identified in the Future?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this