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Metformin and other pharmaceuticals widespread in wadeable streams of the southeastern United States

September 4, 2016

Pharmaceutical contaminants are growing aquatic-health concerns and largely attributed to wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) discharges. Five biweekly water samples from 59 small Piedmont (United States) streams were analyzed for 108 pharmaceuticals and degradates using high-performance liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry. The antidiabetic metformin was detected in 89% of samples and at 97% of sites. At least one pharmaceutical was detected at every site (median of 6, maximum of 45), and several were detected at ≥10% of sites at concentrations reported to affect multiple aquatic end points. Maximal cumulative (all detected compounds) concentrations per site ranged from 17 to 16000 ng L–1. Watershed urbanization, water table depth, soil thickness, and WWTF metrics correlated significantly with in-stream pharmaceutical contamination. Comparable pharmaceutical concentrations and detections at sites with and without permitted wastewater discharges demonstrate the importance of non-WWTF sources and the need for broad-scale mitigation. The results highlight a fundamental biochemical link between global human-health crises like diabetes and aquatic ecosystem health.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Metformin and other pharmaceuticals widespread in wadeable streams of the southeastern United States
DOI 10.1021/acs.estlett.6b00170
Authors Paul M. Bradley, Celeste A. Journey, Daniel T. Button, Daren Carlisle, Jimmy M. Clark, Barbara Mahler, Naomi Nakagaki, Sharon L. Qi, Ian R. Waite, Peter C. Van Metre
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology Letters
Series Number
Index ID 70199782
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center