The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee are conducting an enquiry into water quality in the UK. The Committee have to date taken written evidence from a number of influential witnesses about the issue.
One of the topics highlighted is that of pharmaceuticals, which may present an ecotoxicological risk, getting into the water supply, often from domestic effluent. One substance of concern, which could be captured under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) in the future, is alpha ethylinestradiol (EE2), the major active ingredient of the female contraceptive pill. The postulated maximum concentration levels at which potential pollutants such as EE2 could be allowed are extremely low – and we’re talking about picrograms/Litre quantities here – and are now only being measured in water systems due to significant advances in analytical measurement capability using such techniques as liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS). It will be very important for laboratories, in the future, to accurately and reproducibly measure these pharmaceutical pollutants at increasingly trace levels for the purposes of monitroing wtaer bodies and enforcing EU Water Quality Regulation.
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