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Pharmaceutical Residues in Freshwater

Hazards and Policy Responses

image of Pharmaceutical Residues in Freshwater

This report calls for a better understanding of the effects of pharmaceutical residues in the environment, greater international collaboration and accountability distribution, and policy actions to prevent and remedy emerging concerns. Laboratory and field tests show traces of oral contraceptives causing the feminisation of fish and amphibians, and residues of psychiatric drugs altering fish behaviour. Antimicrobial resistance, linked to the overuse of antibiotics, has rapidly escalated into a global health crisis.

Unless adequate measures are taken to manage the risks, pharmaceutical residues will increasingly be released into the environment as ageing populations, advances in healthcare, and intensification of meat and fish production spur the demand for pharmaceuticals worldwide. The report outlines a collective, life-cycle approach to managing pharmaceuticals in the environment. A policy mix of source-directed, use-orientated and end-of-pipe measures, involving several policy sectors, can help to improve health and protect the environment.

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OECD Policy Recommendations on addressing pharmaceutical residues in freshwater

The OECD recommends government’s take a collective, life cycle approach to managing pharmaceuticals in the environment. This means: i) designing and implementing a policy mix of source-directed, use-orientated and end-of pipe measures; ii) targeting stakeholders throughout the life cycle of pharmaceuticals; and iii) using a combination of voluntary, economic and regulatory instruments. A national pharmaceutical strategy and action plan to manage environmental risks should be developed in collaboration with relevant government departments, local authorities and other stakeholders, and be supported by a strategic financing strategy to ensure effective implementation.

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