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Pharmaceuticals and additives in personal care products as environmental pollutants

Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland

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The application of pharmaceuticals and personal care products is substantial in industrialized and high-income north-western European societies. Faroe Island, Iceland and Greenland are part of this modern society, although some areas are more suffused by technology and modern living than others. This also pertains to the standards of the local solutions for waste water treatment systems, but not so much to the health services. The present report summarises the results of screening analyses of pharmaceuticals and additives in personal care products in presumed hotspots in Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. The study focuses on sewage lines from households and industry in general, and from hospitals. In all 38 pharmaceuticals or metabolites of pharmaceuticals and 7 personal care products were analysed.

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Frame of the study

In recent years, focus has been on what happens to pharmaceuticals and compounds added to personal care products after they have “done their job” so to say, and have left the consumer via the sewage line. That the question is pertinent, has been shown in studies of hormone actions on for instance fish in recipient waters near larger cities, and in a wealth of reports on pharmaceuticals in waters, even in groundwater. The problem is not one that will go away on its own, as the use of pharmaceuticals, in particular, is assumed to increase with the ageing of the population and the increasing demand for medical treatment. The problem is emphasized by the fact that waste water treatment plants are generally designed to deal with solids and substances that stick to these, whereas pharmaceuticals and personal care substances are often water-soluble.

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