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Prioritizing pharmaceutical contaminants in Great Lakes tributaries using risk-based screening techniques

July 19, 2022

In a study of 44 diverse sampling sites across 16 Great Lakes tributaries, 110 pharmaceuticals were detected of 257 monitored. The present study evaluated the ecological relevance of detected chemicals and identified heavily impacted areas to help inform resource managers and guide future investigations. Ten pharmaceuticals (caffeine, nicotine, albuterol, sulfamethoxazole, venlafaxine, acetaminophen, carbamazepine, gemfibrozil, metoprolol, and thiabendazole) were distinguished as having the greatest potential for biological effects based on comparison to screening-level benchmarks derived using information from two biological effects databases, the ECOTOX Knowledgebase and the ToxCast database. Available evidence did not suggest substantial concern for 75% of the monitored pharmaceuticals, including 147 undetected pharmaceuticals and 49 pharmaceuticals with screening-level alternative benchmarks. However, because of a lack of biological effects information, screening values were not available for 51 detected pharmaceuticals. Samples containing the greatest pharmaceutical concentrations and having the highest detection frequencies were from Lake Erie, southern Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron tributaries. Samples collected during low-flow periods had higher pharmaceutical concentrations than those collected during increased-flow periods. The wastewater-treatment plant effluent content in streams correlated positively with pharmaceutical concentrations. However, deviation from this correlation demonstrated that secondary factors, such as multiple pharmaceutical sources, were likely present at some sites. Further research could investigate high-priority pharmaceuticals as well as those for which alternative benchmarks could not be developed. 

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Prioritizing pharmaceutical contaminants in Great Lakes tributaries using risk-based screening techniques
DOI 10.1002/etc.5403
Authors Matthew Allen Pronschinske, Steven R. Corsi, Laura A. DeCicco, Edward Furlong, Gerald T. Ankley, Brett R. Blackwell, Daniel L. Villeneuve, Peter L. Lenaker, Michelle A. Nott
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Index ID 70236158
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Water Science Center