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Pharmaceuticals in the Environment – OECD report

 

Pharmaceuticals are essential for our health but are a challenge when it comes to protecting water quality and the environment.

An OECD report published today recommends that governments take a collective life cycle approach to Pharmaceuticals in the Environment (PiE). Many of the OECD’s findings are in line with our views, i.e. that we need a variety of measures to prevent PiE that include source-directed and use-orientated approaches that engage all stakeholders.

Like the OECD, we support end-of-pipe measures, but only as complementary to source-control measures. In fact, extra treatment at the waste water treatment plants to limit the release of pharmaceuticals in the environment is not sustainable and will result in increased energy consumption and higher water bills for consumers.

The most sustainable and preferred solution is to prevent micropollutants, including pharmaceuticals, from entering the water cycle in the first place.

We have consistently called for a control at source approach to micropollutants as well as for the implementation of the Precautionary and Polluter Pays Principles to be enforced in the EU. By enforcing control at source measures and the Polluter Pays Principle, producers will be more responsible for the products they put on the market and therefore help protect our water resources.

We fully support the strategies highlighted in the OECD report to limit PiE; improving and sharing knowledge, understanding and reporting to prepare for future pollution reduction measures; source-directed approaches to prevent the release of pharmaceuticals into water bodies; use-oriented approaches to reduce the over-consumption of pharmaceuticals; end-of-pipe measures; and a collaboration and a life-cycle approach.

We strongly encourage the European Commission to take the OECD recommendations into account in the implementation of its Strategic Approach on Pharmaceuticals in the Environment from March 2019, since it is still too weak regarding source-directed and use-orientated measures.

The study is available at: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/environment/pharmaceutical-residues-in-freshwater_c936f42d-en.

It can be read online: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/c936f42d-en/index.html?itemId=/content/publication/c936f42d-en.

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