Pharmaceuticals in soils of lower income countries: Physico-chemical fate and risks from wastewater irrigation.
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Population growth, increasing affluence, and greater access to medicines have led to an increase in active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) entering sewerage networks. In areas with high wastewater reuse, residual quantities of APIs may enter soils via irrigation with treated, partially treated, or untreated wastewater and sludge. Wastewater used for irrigation is currently not included in chemical environmental risk assessments and requires further consideration in areas with high water reuse. This study critically assesses the contemporary understanding of the occurrence and fate of APIs in soils of low and lower-middle income countries (LLMIC) in order to contribute to the development of risk assessments for APIs in LLMIC. The physico-chemical properties of APIs and soils vary greatly globally, impacting on API fate, bioaccumulation and toxicity. The impact of pH, clay and organic matter on the fate of organic ionisable compounds is discussed in detail. This study highlights the occurrence and the partitioning and degradation coefficients for APIs in soil:porewater systems, API usage data in LLMICS and removal rates (where used) within sewage treatment plants as key areas where data are required in order to inform robust environmental risk assessment methodologies.
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