Most drug residues in wastewater come from households, not hospitals

Oct. 22, 2015

Researchers in Germany focused on 50 frequently administered substances which are particularly associated with discharge to wastewater.

LÜNEBURG, Germany — Oct. 19, 2015 — A new study found that most drug residues in wastewater come from private households, rather than health establishments such as hospitals or nursing facilities, according to a press release.

In fact, these institutions only discharge a small amount of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) to wastewater, and only at a local level, noted the release.

Researchers in Germany focused on 50 frequently administered substances which are particularly associated with discharge to wastewater.

They quantified a selection of drugs in health care facility sewers to evaluate the correlation between consumption and emission, and modeled a prediction of contaminant emissions based on consumption patterns, stated the release. The results revealed a clearly higher average consumption, and therefore higher emissions, by private households than health care facilities.

According to the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, this study demonstrates for the first time that, at a national level, nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals only account for a modest proportion of APIs discharged into municipal wastewater compared to private households. Previous studies had only shown this to be the case for general hospitals.

“Our study has shown that consumption patterns provide at least as accurate a picture of wastewater pollution by individual substances as wastewater measurements themselves,” commented Manuel Herrmann, principal author of the study, in the release. “However, with respect to the measurement procedure, our method combines the advantages of being far less complex and less costly. Thus, contamination can easily be predicted, and policy and management can react appropriately and promptly.”

The study has been published in the journal Environment International.

You can find the entire release here.

For more, read Dr. Joe Cotrovuo’s Contaminant of the Month on medical wastes.

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