Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in Drinking Water
Recent studies have indicated that emerging contaminants, such
as pharmaceuticals and personal care products, are being
detected in trace levels in drinking water.
What are pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs)?
PPCPs are any products that are used for health or cosmetic
How do PPCPs enter the environment and drinking water?
Through the use of personal care products (cosmetics,
lotions and fragrances);
Activities such as bathing, shaving and swimming;
Unused or expired medication being flushed down the toilet
or placed in the garbage;
Medication residues passing through the body (metabolic
Residues from manufacturing;
Why are PPCPs suddenly showing up in drinking water?
PPCPs have probably been present in drinking water sources for a
long time. Advances in analytical chemistry and technology have
enabled laboratories to detect more substances, and at lower
levels (trace amounts). Sophisticated laboratory equipment can
now measure chemicals in nanograms per liter (parts per
trillion). To put this into perspective, this concentration is
the equivalent of about 1 tsp in 1000 Olympic-size swimming
How are PPCPs in drinking water regulated?
Pharmaceuticals and personal care products are not
regulated in Ontario drinking water. There is currently not
enough scientific data on the potential health effects of PPCPs
at minute levels. Monitoring and research on health effects and
the pathways in which PPCPs enter the environment is currently
Why should I be concerned about PPCPs in drinking water?
There are increasing numbers of PPCPs being detected in
source water and drinking water;
There can be adverse effects on aquatic life;
Water and wastewater treatment systems are not typically
designed for the removal of PPCPs, and it is extremely
expensive to upgrade to more sophisticated treatment
What can I do to help?
Take prescription medication as directed by your doctor or
Properly dispose of any unused or unwanted medication;
flush unwanted medication down the toilet;
Many pharmacies offer take-back programs for unused or
Ontario residents have a
free, safe and easy way to dispose of pharmaceuticals
and household hazardous waste. Find your local
drop-off location at
What are the Lake Huron & Elgin Area Water Supply Systems doing
In order to understand long-term implications to the water
supply system, and the effectiveness of the existing processes
at the water treatment plants, the Lake Huron & Elgin Area Water
Systems participate in various studies and investigations.
These initiatives include research studies being led by:
The National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)
through the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Drinking
Water Research at the University of Toronto, and the NSERC
Industrial Research Chair in Water Treatment at the
University of Waterloo.
Ontario Ministry of the Environment;
University of Western Ontario;
Various engineering consulting firms.
In addition, the Water Board's have an annual membership in the
Water Research Foundation which funds and undertakes
international research on water supply issues. Continued
studies will be useful in the long-term plans for the water
supply systems. A thorough understanding of source water
quality will help manage and prioritize improvements for water
treatment plant processes, and identify additional technologies
required at the water treatment plants to reduce risk.
Where can I find more information?
For more information, please visit the websites of the following