Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Pain killer residues end up in Baltic Sea, better treatment needed

of a first-of-its-kind study on pharmaceuticals flows from waste waters in St. Petersburg has been published as part of the findings of HELCOM BASE Project. An estimated load of 400kg of a common anti-inflammatory pain killer ends up via River Neva to the Gulf of Finland annually.  he results clearly indicate that the currently employed waste water treatment processes are insufficient for the anti-inflammatory drug and much ends up in the Baltic Sea with a probable negative effect on living organisms. Therefore an improvement of technology is the first necessary step to take. Consuming less pharmaceuticals or substituting persistent substances with greener more environmentally friendly ones is another goal. he new study also found that the concentration of the pain killer Diclofenac in the out-going waste water was often higher than in unpurified sewage water. This phenomenon can be explained by the liberation of Diclofenac during the waste water treatment process. Similar observations have been made at a number of other waste water treatment plants elsewhere in the world. lso a common synthetic hormone (Ethinylestradiol, EE2) was studied. Concluding from pharmaceutical sales statistics and population analysis of St. Petersburg, the amount of EE2 excreted into the sewage system did not exceed 315 g per year which means that the concentration of the hormone in purified waste water was not significant. ithin the study, naturally produced human estrogen E1 was found in raw sewage and, based on the results of the chemical analysis, approximately 40 kg of E1 is excreted annually. In the effluent, E1 was detected in only three out of 31 samples; the average concentration in the effluent was therefore judged to be below the detection limit of 10 ng/L.  Pharmaceuticals and their harmful effects in waterways are a growing concern and only recently, the elevated concentrations have been measured 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 BASE Project component to identify sources and flow patterns of pharmaceuticals in St. Petersburg to the Baltic Sea focused on three substances: a common synthetic hormone and a natural hormone, as well as the anti-inflammatory drug Diclofenac. All of them are included in European Union’s pharmaceuticals monitoring watch list, from 2013. The sampling series were carried out at St. Petersburg’s Central, Northern and South-Western treatment plants. 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.  * * *Note for editors: (2012–2014) supports the implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan () in Russia.  BASE addresses altogether three priority areas of the HELCOM BSAP: eutrophication, hazardous substances, and biodiversity and nature protection. Within BASE, monitoring activities to support and measure the progress within the abovementioned segments are also being carried out. The pilot projects (See: components) are implemented by experts from Russia with the support of EU experts, while the overall Project, funded by EU, is managed by the HELCOM Secretariat and St. Petersburg Public Organization “Ecology and Business”. The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , is an intergovernmental organization 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 contactVladimir NikiforovScientific Research Center for Ecological SafetyRussian Academy of SciencesTel. +7 921 9354408E-mail: vovanikiforov(at) Niina VienoEnvieno KyTel. +358 50 544 8431E-mail: niina.vieno(at) Johanna LaurilaInformation Secretary, HELCOMTel.  +358 40 523 8988E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)

The final report of a first-of-its-kind study on pharmaceuticals flows from waste waters in St. Petersburg has been published as part of the findings of HELCOM BASE Project.