Multi-region assessment of pharmaceutical exposures and predicted effects in USA wadeable urban-gradient streams

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Human-use pharmaceuticals in urban streams link aquatic-ecosystem health to human health. Pharmaceutical mixtures have been widely reported in larger streams due to historical emphasis on wastewater-treatment plant (WWTP) sources, with limited investigation of pharmaceutical exposures and potential effects in smaller headwater streams. In 2014–2017, the United States Geological Survey measured 111 pharmaceutical compounds in 308 headwater streams (261 urban-gradient sites sampled 3–5 times, 47 putative low-impact sites sampled once) in 4 regions across the US. Simultaneous exposures to multiple pharmaceutical compounds (pharmaceutical mixtures) were observed in 91% of streams (248 urban-gradient, 32 low-impact), with 88 analytes detected across all sites and cumulative maximum concentrations up to 36,142 ng/L per site. Cumulative detections and concentrations correlated to urban land use and presence/absence of permitted WWTP discharges, but pharmaceutical mixtures also were common in the 75% of sampled streams without WWTP. Cumulative exposure-activity ratios (EAR) indicated widespread transient exposures with high probability of molecular effects to vertebrates. Considering the potential individual and interactive effects of the detected pharmaceuticals and the recognized analytical underestimation of the pharmaceutical-contaminant (unassessed parent compounds, metabolites, degradates) space, these results demonstrate a nation-wide environmental concern and the need for watershed-scale mitigation of in-stream pharmaceutical contamination.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Multi-region assessment of pharmaceutical exposures and predicted effects in USA wadeable urban-gradient streams
Series title PLoS
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0228214
Volume 1
Issue 15
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher PLoS
Contributing office(s) Kansas Water Science Center, New Jersey Water Science Center, Oregon Water Science Center, Texas Water Science Center, South Atlantic Water Science Center, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center
Description e0228214, 25 p.
First page 1
Last page 25
Country United States
State Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Delaware, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina Virginia, Washington
Other Geospatial USA wadeable urban-gradient streams
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