Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are ubiquitous in freshwater ecosystems worldwide and are recognized as contaminants of concern. Currently, contaminants of concern are classified for their persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity (PBT criteria). PPCPs are not classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), although some PPCPs share characteristics similar to POPs. For example, PPCPs are known to be pseudopersistent due to constant discharge into the environment, often at low concentrations. At commonly reported environmental concentrations, PPCPs are rarely toxic, but the ability of these compounds to disrupt ecological processes and functions in freshwater ecosystems is often overlooked. Herein we briefly summarize recent studies highlighting the potential ecological effects of PPCPs, including effects on key ecological processes (e.g. primary productivity and community respiration), and we propose that appropriate screening for harmful effects of PPCPs in surface waters should be expanded to include Ecologically Disrupting Compounds (EcoDC) in addition to the established PBT criteria.
- PPCPs; ecological processes; disruption; pharmaceuticals; sub-lethal; EcoDC