Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Basic Facts

Pharmaceuticals are created as biologically active substances to influence the human body -and also animals- for treatment purposes. There were several examples in the world when high concentration of the pharmaceuticals in the environment lead to disastrous consequences for the population of the exposed species. The question remains whether the residues of the products released into the Baltic Sea environment remain active after disposal and if the concentration is such that cause an effect on the environment.

The residues of various pharmaceuticals originate mostly from waste water releases. The compounds in household waste water come from excretions and incorrect disposal of unused medicines. Research shows that not all chemical compounds from medicines are dissolved by the treatment in the waste water plant.  Moreover, pharmaceuticals used in veterinary enter the soil -and consequently groundwater- via manure.

Pharmaceuticals can pose different effects on the environment depending on its initial purpose. Some medicines are to deprive pain, change hormonal levels or to cure e. g. cancer by affecting cell functions. Concerns have been raised about the combined effect of pharmaceuticals even though chemical compounds remain under allowed limits in the wastewater treatment plants. 

There is not enough knowledge about the possible long-term effects of pharmaceuticals which requests further research​​. Currently, the standard monitoring procedures are missing to measure pharmaceuticals content in the waste water and other waterbodies.

Photo: Kaj Granholm