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Journal of Toxicology
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 989270, 11 pages
Research Article

Exposure of the Main Italian River Basin to Pharmaceuticals

1Istituto di Chimica Agraria ed Ambientale, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, 29122 Piacenza, Italy
2AEIFORIA Spin-Off Company dell’ Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, 43036 Fidenza, Italy

Received 1 April 2011; Accepted 17 June 2011

Academic Editor: Mahfuzar Rahman

Copyright © 2011 Federico Ferrari et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study give a preliminary survey of pharmaceutical contamination and accumulation in surface waters and sediments along the river Po basin (74,000 km2, the largest in Italy), a strategic region for the Italian economy: it collects sewage from a vast industrialized area of Italy (Autorità di Baciono del fiume Po, 2006, 2009). 10 pharmaceuticals (atenolol, propanolol, metoprolol, nimesulide, furosemide, carbamazepine, ranitidine, metronidazole, paracetamol, and atorvastatin) from several therapeutic classes were searched in 54 sampling points along the river Po from the source to the delta, and at the mouth of its major effluents. In water samples were found pharmaceuticals in the range of 0.38–0.001 μg/L, except for furosemide (max conc. 0.605 μg/L), paracetamol (max conc. 3.59 μg/L), metoprolol (never detected) and for atenolol (not analysed). In sediment samples, only paracetamol was not detected, while the others were generally found in the range of 0.4–0.02 μg/kg ww with high concentrations for atenolol (max conc. 284 μg/kg ww) and furosemide (max conc. 98.4 μg/kg ww). The findings confirm also STPs as point sources of contamination. Despite of the much evidence for the adverse effects of pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment, the observed low levels cannot be considered to pose a serious risk to human health; further studies are necessary for a comprehensive risk assessment.