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Onema contributes to monitoring and assessing risks of medicinal contamination

Onema is an active participant in key efforts to monitor and assess potential risks caused by medicinal residues in aquatic environments.

An exceptional monitoring effort for aquatic environments
A national study is now being prepared for 2012 under the auspices of the Ecology ministry. It involves the various research partners of Onema and the agency will finance the monitoring campaign. The study will use approximately 200 measurement stations spread throughout France and will detect substances that have undergone insufficient research to date in aquatic environments, including a certain number of medicinal substances selected for priority analysis. Most of the sites will be selected among the 1 500 permanent stations already in existence, including some deemed to be representative of various emission sources. A similar study was already run in 2009 on almost 500 stations for groundwater. The study was managed by BRGM and the initial results should be available at the end of 2011.

Study sites to better understand risks and test management techniques
Scientific teams are going to work on study sites to better understand the transfer and fate of medicinal residues in the environment, to learn more on the risks involved and evaluate the effectiveness of proposed management techniques. Spread throughout the country, the sites will be selected for their representativeness as sources of potential contamination, in close collaboration with the Water agencies. Onema manages the identification and selection procedure for the sites, in the framework of the national plan against micropollutants. A status report is underway on existing sites to be used for studies that are part of the micropollutant plan. Further preparation of the projects will then be carried out in conjunction with the Water agencies. A study specifically on veterinary residues in areas with intensive agriculture will also be co-funded by Onema (see box).

Standardising analysis methods
How can we quantify the number of molecules at concentrations as low as one nanogram per litre? Results in terms of the presence or absence of medicinal residues in aquatic environments are highly dependant on the performance level of analysis methods. That is why the methods used in analysis labs must be standardised. In 2011, the Aquaref consortium, with funding from Onema, will run intercomparison trials between three analysis labs working on eleven priority, pharmaceutical substances, including three hormones. The trials will check lab performance and set standards for analysis methods.


  • Risks of contamination by veterinary residues due to spreading of livestock effluents

    What are the risks of water contamination by veterinary residues following spreading of livestock effluents? Concentrations of antibiotics can be significant in liquid manure, but few studies have addressed the fate of these residues, even though their persistence and high solubility create major risks of surface-water contamination. That is why Onema is funding a status report by INRA on the contamination of river and runoff waters by veterinary residues. In Brittany, the AgrHys environmental research observatory will run a study on a small, 5 square kilometre river basin comprising many intensive, off-land pork farms. The basin, in which the water is significantly degraded by spreading of animal effluents in fields, represents an excellent site to understand the transfer mechanisms of pharmaceutical products from the soil to water. The results of the study, co-funded by Onema, will help in developing effluent management techniques to reduce contamination risks, that can then be made available to the agricultural sector.