Pharmaceuticals as emerging contaminants in the aquatic environment of Latin America: a review

Melissa Valdez-Carrillo, Leif Abrell, Jorge Ramírez-Hernández, Jaime A. Reyes-López, Concepción Carreón-Diazconti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Pharmaceutical active compounds (PhACs) are environmentally ubiquitous around the world, and the countries of Latin America (LATAM) are not the exception; however there is still little knowledge of the magnitude and conditions of their occurrence in LATAM and of the environmental consequences of their presence. The present work reviews 79 documents published from 2007 to 2019 on the occurrence, concentrations, and sources of PhACs and hormones in surface water (SW), wastewater (WW), and treated wastewater (TWW) in LATAM and on the circumstances of their release to the environment. Research efforts are reported in only ten countries and confirm the presence of 159 PhACs, mainly analgesics and anti-inflammatories, although extraordinarily high concentrations of carbamazepine (830 μg/L) and ethinylestradiol (6.8 μg/L) were found in Ecuador and Brazil, respectively. The analysis of maximum concentrations and the ecotoxicological risk assessment corroborate that (1) these values exceed the environmental concentrations found in other parts of the world, (2) the environmental risk posed by these concentrations is remarkably high, and (3) there is no statistically significant difference between the maximum concentrations found in WW and those found in TWW. The main source of PhACs in LATAM’s aquatic environment is WW; hence, these countries should direct substantial efforts to develop efficient and cost-effective treatment technologies and plan and apply WW management strategies and regulations. This analysis presents the current states of occurrence, concentrations, and sources of PhACs in the aquatic environment of LATAM and outlines the magnitude of the environmental problem in that part of the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44863-44891
Number of pages29
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number36
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Aquatic environment
  • Emerging contaminants
  • Environmental concentrations
  • Latin America
  • Pharmaceutical compounds
  • Risk assessment
  • Surface water
  • Treated wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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