Pharmaceutical Residues in Freshwater

Hazards and Policy Responses

This report calls for a better understanding of the effects of pharmaceutical residues in the environment, greater international collaboration and accountability distribution, and policy actions to prevent and remedy emerging concerns. Laboratory and field tests show traces of oral contraceptives causing the feminisation of fish and amphibians, and residues of psychiatric drugs altering fish behaviour. Antimicrobial resistance, linked to the overuse of antibiotics, has rapidly escalated into a global health crisis. Unless adequate measures are taken to manage the risks, pharmaceutical residues will increasingly be released into the environment as ageing populations, advances in healthcare, and intensification of meat and fish production spur the demand for pharmaceuticals worldwide. The report outlines a collective, life-cycle approach to managing pharmaceuticals in the environment. A policy mix of source-directed, use-orientated and end-of-pipe measures, involving several policy sectors, can help to improve health and protect the environment.

Published on November 13, 2019

In series:OECD Studies on Waterview more titles


Executive Summary
OECD Policy Recommendations on addressing pharmaceutical residues in freshwater
Defining the challenge of managing pharmaceuticals in water
Opportunities to build a policy-relevant knowledge base
Emerging policy instruments for the control of pharmaceuticals in water
Recommendations for the management of pharmaceuticals in freshwater
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