Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Finding pharmaceutical flows from St. Petersburg to the Baltic Sea

​First pilot results on pharmaceutical flows and microplastic litter from St. Petersburg waste waters to the Baltic Sea were published today in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the XV International Environmental Forum – Baltic Sea Day. The activities of HELCOM to tackle these increasing environmental threats has discovered that a common anti-inflammatory drug, very difficult to remove in treatment process, can be found in waste water, while concentrations of the 2 examined hormones are low. As per microplastics, the study has found that the treatment process reduces effectively the amount of micro-sized litter, but a part of them also ends up in the water environment. The EU-funded HELCOM Project on Implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan in Russia (BASE) has cooperated on these previously unstudied concerns with the State Unitary Enterprise Vodokanal of St. Petersburg. Vodokanal is a water and waste water company at the forefront of exploring new issues in Russia. The BASE Project component to identify sources and flow patterns of pharmaceuticals in St. Petersburg to the Baltic Sea focuses on three substances: a common synthetic hormone and a natural hormone, as well as diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug. All of them are included in European Union’s pharmaceuticals monitoring watch list, established last year.  Pharmaceuticals and their harmful effects in waterways are a growing concern and only recently, the elevated concentrations have been measured also in the marine environment, and also in the Baltic Sea. Baltic Sea is especially sensitive since it is the final basin of the pharmaceuticals residues consumed by more than 80 million people.  The pilot study on microplastics in waste waters was carried out in the central waste water treatment plant at SUE Vodokanal of St. Petersburg. It is too early to estimate well the proportion of plastics from all the examined micro-sized litter, out of which some pass the purification process. The samples from this study are stored for possible further research. Annual global plastic production keeps increasing, and it is evaluated that marine litter consists 60–80 % of plastics, most of it being very small and called microplastics. However, only a few studies exist globally about the sources of microplastics, and also the methods of sampling and analysing lack standards. Within HELCOM BASE Project, current methodology and experience of microplastic research will be applied in St. Petersburg waste waters. * * *Note for editors:Baltic Sea Day is an international environmental forum organized annually in St. Petersburg, this year for the 15th time. It brings together hundreds of environmental experts. This year’s event, supported by HELCOM, is focusing mainly on monitoring activities, maritime spatial planning, green technologies and practices, hazardous substances, environmental farming practices, impacts of human activity on marine biodiversity, transboundary rivers and, on the Gulf of Finland Year 2014. Experts engage in several roundtable discussions on 19–21 March 2014.   The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , is an intergovernmental organisation of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention. * * * For more information, please contact Saija VuolaProject Manager, BASETel. +358 40 6684657E-mail: saija.vuola(at) Ekaterina VorobyevaProject Manager, BASETel. +7 905 222 9437E-mail: vorobyeva(at) Johanna LaurilaInformation Secretary, HELCOMTel.  +358 40 523 8988E-mail: Johanna.laurila(at)

First results of pilot studies on urban waste water show that a common painkiller pollutes the Sea.