Research in the Greater Bay Area - Pharmaceutical residues

Pearl River Estuary-v1 -web

Pharmaceuticals in the environment have been regarded as emerging chemicals of concern (ECCs). While estuaries, as transition zones connecting riverine and marine environments, have long been viewed as pollutant filters. Monitoring its water quality parameters is an important part of preventing and controlling ecosystem pollution. With its high population and industrial density and numerous animal husbandry and aquaculture facilities, the Greater Bay Area (GBA) is a hotspot for contamination by ECCs such as pharmaceuticals, especially in the aquatic environment of the Pearl River Estuary (PRE). Coupled with the impact of COVID-19 in recent years, the significantly increased drug use will also become a negative factor that triggers the increase of pharmaceuticals in environmental water.
In order to effectively assess the ecological risks posed by the continued discharge of pharmaceuticals in the neighboring waters of the PRE, SKLMP member Prof. Paul Lam led a team to investigate the presence of 40 pharmaceuticals in the water and sediment of the PRE in the wet season of 2020. SKLMP members Dr. Phoebe Yuefei Ruan, Dr. Meng Yan all participated in this survey. The research results have been published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, entitled "Source apportionment, hydrodynamic influence, and environmental stress of pharmaceuticals in a microtidal estuary with multiple outlets in South China".
The team find that pharmaceuticals tend to deposit at the PRE mouth by the influence of the plume bulge and onshore invasion of deep shelf waters after entering the marine waters. Hydrological modelling of the environmental capacity of the pharmaceutical residues also indicates a low level of environmental stress in the surrounding area. Furthermore, the research also mentions that pharmaceutical discharges through the Humen and Yamen outlets are predominantly of animal origin.

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