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Pharmaceuticals in water, fish and osprey nestlings in Delaware River and Bay

November 12, 2017

Exposure of wildlife to Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) is likely to occur but studies of risk are limited. One exposure pathway that has received attention is trophic transfer of APIs in a water-fish-osprey food chain. Samples of water, fish plasma and osprey plasma were collected from Delaware River and Bay, and analyzed for 21 APIs. Only 2 of 21 analytes exceeded method detection limits in osprey plasma (acetaminophen and diclofenac) with plasma levels typically 2–3 orders of magnitude below human therapeutic concentrations (HTC). We built upon a screening level model used to predict osprey exposure to APIs in Chesapeake Bay and evaluated whether exposure levels could have been predicted in Delaware Bay had we just measured concentrations in water or fish. Use of surface water and BCFs did not predict API concentrations in fish well, likely due to fish movement patterns, and partitioning and bioaccumulation uncertainties associated with these ionizable chemicals. Input of highest measured API concentration in fish plasma combined with pharmacokinetic data accurately predicted that diclofenac and acetaminophen would be the APIs most likely detected in osprey plasma. For the majority of APIs modeled, levels were not predicted to exceed 1 ng/mL or method detection limits in osprey plasma. Based on the target analytes examined, there is little evidence that APIs represent a significant risk to ospreys nesting in Delaware Bay. If an API is present in fish orders of magnitude below HTC, sampling of fish-eating birds is unlikely to be necessary. However, several human pharmaceuticals accumulated in fish plasma within a recommended safety factor for HTC. It is now important to expand the scope of diet-based API exposure modeling to include alternative exposure pathways (e.g., uptake from landfills, dumps and wastewater treatment plants) and geographic locations (developing countries) where API contamination of the environment may represent greater risk.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2018
Title Pharmaceuticals in water, fish and osprey nestlings in Delaware River and Bay
DOI 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.09.083
Authors Thomas G. Bean, Barnett A. Rattner, Rebecca S. Lazarus, Daniel D. Day, S. Rebekah Burket, Bryan W. Brooks, Samuel P. Haddad, William W. Bowerman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Pollution
Series Number
Index ID 70192969
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center