Drugs in the environment: emission of drugs, diagnostic aids and disinfectants into wastewater by hospitals in relation to other sources--a review

Chemosphere. 2001 Nov;45(6-7):957-69. doi: 10.1016/s0045-6535(01)00144-8.


After administration, pharmaceuticals are excreted by the patients into wastewater. Unused medications are sometimes disposed of in drains. The drugs enter the aquatic environment and eventually reach drinking water if they are not biodegraded or eliminated during sewage treatment. Additionally, antibiotics and disinfectants are supposed to disturb the wastewater treatment process and the microbial ecology in surface waters. Furthermore, resistant bacteria may be selected in the aeration tanks of STPs by the antibiotic substances present. Recently, pharmaceuticals have been detected in surface water, ground water and drinking water. However, only little is known about the significance of emissions from households and hospitals. A brief summary of input by different sources, occurrence, and elimination of different pharmaceutical groups such as antibiotics, anti-tumour drugs, anaesthetics and contrast media as well as AOX resulting from hospital effluent input into sewage water and surface water will be presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / analysis
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Contrast Media
  • Disinfectants / analysis*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Medical Waste / analysis*
  • Medical Waste Disposal*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / analysis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sewage
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / methods*
  • Water Purification*
  • Water Supply*


  • Anesthetics
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Contrast Media
  • Disinfectants
  • Medical Waste
  • Medical Waste Disposal
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Sewage