Metformin and other pharmaceuticals widespread in wadeable streams of the southeastern United States

Environmental Science & Technology Letters
By: , and 



Pharmaceutical contaminants are growing aquatic-health concerns and largely attributed to wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) discharges. Five biweekly water samples from 59 small Piedmont (United States) streams were analyzed for 108 pharmaceuticals and degradates using high-performance liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry. The antidiabetic metformin was detected in 89% of samples and at 97% of sites. At least one pharmaceutical was detected at every site (median of 6, maximum of 45), and several were detected at ≥10% of sites at concentrations reported to affect multiple aquatic end points. Maximal cumulative (all detected compounds) concentrations per site ranged from 17 to 16000 ng L–1. Watershed urbanization, water table depth, soil thickness, and WWTF metrics correlated significantly with in-stream pharmaceutical contamination. Comparable pharmaceutical concentrations and detections at sites with and without permitted wastewater discharges demonstrate the importance of non-WWTF sources and the need for broad-scale mitigation. The results highlight a fundamental biochemical link between global human-health crises like diabetes and aquatic ecosystem health.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Metformin and other pharmaceuticals widespread in wadeable streams of the southeastern United States
Series title Environmental Science & Technology Letters
DOI 10.1021/acs.estlett.6b00170
Volume 3
Issue 6
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher ACS Publications
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center, National Water Quality Assessment Program, Ohio Water Science Center, Oregon Water Science Center, Texas Water Science Center, South Atlantic Water Science Center, National Water Quality Program, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center
Description 7 p.
First page 243
Last page 249
Country United States
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details