PHARMAS – Ecological and Human Health Risk Assessments of Antibiotics and Anti-cancer Drugs Found in the Environment

Leading organisations:
Brunel University West London (United Kingdom), Göteborgs Universitet (Sweden), Association pour la Recherche et le Développement des Méthodes et Processus Industriels (France), Stichting Katholieke Universiteit (Netherlands), IVL Svenska Miljöinstitutet (Sweden), Leuphana University of Lüneburg (Germany), Natural Environment Research Council (United Kingdom), École des hautes études en santé publique (France), Vereniging voor christelijk hoger onderwijs wetenschappelijk onderzoek en patientenzorg (Netherlands), Ecologic Institute gemeinnützige GmbH (Germany), Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung GmbH (Germany), Danmarks Tekniske Universitet (Denmark), Veolia Environnement Recherche et Innovation SNC (France), and Stichting VU (Netherlands)


Geographic Area:
British Isles Scandinavia Western Europe


1) To assess the risks to wild animals and humans posed by environmental exposure to pharmaceuticals (antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs), 2) To develop a prototype web-based classification system with the intention of enabling all EU citizens to make their own informed decisions about the risk posed by human pharmaceuticals to their health and to the health of the environment.

Target audience:
General Public, National/Local decision and policy makers, and Scientists

Area of interest:
Occurrence of pharmaceuticals in the environment, Risks to ecosystems, and Risks to human health


1) To determine the human and animal exposure to the target molecules by measuring and modelling the concentrations found from the resource (mainly surface water) to the tap (drinking water), 2) To provide the missing data on ecotoxicological and toxicological thresholds of concern (i.e. the lowest concentrations/doses that still cause effects on wild animals, plants, microorganisms and humans), 3) To determine if embryos/newborns are more susceptible than adults to adverse effects of pharmaceuticals, 4) To investigate the toxicity of realistic mixtures involving antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs in several dedicated case studies, 5) To produce probabilistic estimates of the risk caused by the exposure of wildlife and humans to the selected pharmaceuticals by analyzing the uncertainty and variability in the exposure estimates, 6) To evaluate the usefulness of ecological effect data for the assessment of human effects, 7) To explore options to develop a common effect endpoint for human and ecological risks, 8) To identify stable transformation products of the drugs of interest and will investigate their concentrations and (eco)toxicology in the environment, 9) To explore the needs and contents, as well as the scientific and socio-economic impact, of a pan-European classification system, 10) To help the public to make an assessment of whether or not it should be worried by the presence of pharmaceuticals in the environment and in drinking water, 11) To support communication and collaboration between scientists and regulators, 12) To contribute to an evolution of the regulation and EU policies by distilling the policy-relevant information, products and conclusions of the project for the relevant policy fields.

Communication material:

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HCWH Europe gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the European Commission (EC)’s LIFE+ programme, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU) Germany, and the German Environment Agency (UBA). HCWH Europe is solely responsible for the content of this project and related materials. The views expressed do not reflect the official views of the EC, BMU, or UBA.