Home - Vision - The specific aims of ONEMA

  • Effects of medicinal residues on aquatic environments

           Though we now have more knowledge on the concentration levels of medicinal residues in aquatic environments, there are still very few relevant ecotoxicological studies carried out in the field on chronic exposure regimes to low concentrations. Study of the toxic effects is very complex because substance concentrations are very low (nanogram per litre) and in the form of complex mixes of micropollutants, both medicinal and other. What is more, the products resulting from the metabolised medication and/or degradation of the medication are often unknown and the same is true for their toxicity.
  • Study the impact of detergents on the environment

           In France, phosphates have been banned from laundry detergents since 1 July 2007. The "Grenelle de l’environnement" law will ban their use in all detergents starting in 2010. Ecolabels, proposed by the European Union to promote the most environmentally friendly detergents, address product components individually. The comparative evaluation of the environmental impact of the main dishwasher detergents, ordered by Onema, will shed light on product effects by including the potential interactions between the different components.

ONEMA and the "Grenelle de l'environnement" commitments :

Prevention of chemical pollution | Management of water resources | The blue corridor

1) Prevention of chemical pollution

Commitment 103 I Manage the risks arising from medicinal residues in water

       Over the past 15 years, progress in physico-chemical analysis has made it possible to detect medicinal residues in natural surface and ground water and in the water intended for human consumption. Antibiotics, antidepressants, beta blockers, oral contraceptives, etc. are all biologically active substances that are continuously released to aquatic environments via wastewater-treatment plants and storm overflows installed in treatment networks. Though there are no risks of acute toxicity, these micropollutants can nonetheless impact on organisms in aquatic environments.

Treatment of wastewater and medicinal substances

With financing from Onema, Cemagref will draw up an inventory of wastewater-treatment processes designed to eliminate medicinal residues, in conjunction with the AMPERES programme (Analysis of priority and emerging micropollutants in raw and treated water output by wastewater-treatment plants).

Report on medicinal substances

To assist in determining the priority medicinal substances requiring attention starting in 2009, Onema requested a report from INERIS on the current knowledge available on emerging medicinal substances. The goal is to draw up an inventory of environmental status conditions and to determine the vulnerability of aquatic organisms, the impact mechanisms and how organisms are affected depending on their level of development.

Commitment 104 I Reduce the release of priority substances to water and sediment

    Onema is a participant in the national action plan launched in the beginning of 2008 following the detection of PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) levels higher than the authorised thresholds in the flesh of certain freshwater fish.

A national network to monitor contamination of fish

Onema manages the national sampling programme for fish in aquatic environments, in compliance with technical specifications set by AFFSA (French agency for food safety). Onema personnel collected fish from 107 sites in the most contaminated river basins. The analysis work is currently being carried out by the national reference laboratory for dioxin and PCB, and will be interpreted by AFSSA. The final results will be available in the beginning of 2009.

Onema also participates in the national plan to gain knowledge on river PCB pollution. Its role is to help finance research to better understand what happens to PCB in aquatic environments. It is currently co-financing a study launched in the beginning of 2008 by Cemagref to gain insight into the complex phenomena of PCB transfer from sediment to freshwater fish.

Commitment 105 I Ban phosphates in all laundry detergents by 2010

     Phosphates are one of the most often used and largest components in household and industrial detergents. The phosphates contained in detergents are released to aquatic environments after treatment of the wastewater. They have no effect on human health, but do impact on aquatic environments by contributing to eutrophication of rivers and the development of certain undesirable algae (cyanobacteria also known as blue-green algae).

Interdiction and reduction of phosphates in Europe

With the assistance of the International office for water (IOWater), Onema wrote up a summary of the legal efforts in a number of European countries to ban or reduce phosphates in laundry detergents.

Environmental impact of dishwasher detergents

On behalf of Onema, Ineris is running a comparative assessment of the environmental impact (eutrophication, effects on survival and reproduction of aquatic organisms) of the main dishwasher detergents available on the market. The assessment is carried out under actual usage conditions for a set of 30 single and multi-functional formulas. This study is a continuation of the work carried out jointly by the National consumer institute, the Water agencies and Ineris in 2006 on detergents.