Environmental Health - Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

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Veterinary Medicines in the Environment

Pathways figure
Potential pathways for veterinary medicines in soil and water.
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A Toxics Program scientist and his European colleagues have summarized the state of knowledge about veterinary medicines in the environment. Recently, scientist have detected low levels of veterinary medicines in soils, surface waters, and ground waters worldwide. Although the environmental occurrence and associated impacts of some compounds such as selected antibacterial compounds have been investigated, the impacts of many other substances found in the environment are not well understood. As a result, questions have arisen about the effects of veterinary medicines on organisms in the environment and on human health.

Questions explored by the scientists in their feature article in the August 1, 2003 issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology (a publication of the American Chemical Society ) include:

  • "What other veterinary medicines might be in the environment, and should we be concerned about these?"
  • "How do these substances behave in the environment, and do they differ from other chemical classes (e.g., pesticides)?"
  • "What are the effects of long-term, low-level exposure to these medicines?"
  • "Do their degradation products present environmental risks?"
  • "What subtle human and environmental effects may be elicited by these drugs?"
  • "Do medicines in the environment play a role in antibacterial resistance?"
  • "How do these substances interact in the environment with other veterinary medicines and other contaminants?"

The authors use recent data and information to answer some of these questions. Although many other questions remain unanswered, this new review article highlights key researchers and their current attempts to find answers in this rapidly evolving field of environmental chemistry. In addition, major gaps in current knowledge are explained that point to the need for additional research.

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