Humans are most commonly exposed to PPCPs through medications and daily personal care routines. However, these compounds have been also detected in trace amounts in surface water, drinking water and wastewater effluent in both Europe and the United States. PPCPs can be introduced into the environment in several ways:
- After we take medications, some of the compounds pass through our bodies and into the wastewater system.
- We use personal hygiene products and household cleaning agents that are washed down the drain.
- Unused medications are flushed down the toilet or dumped in the sink.
- Farm animals excrete veterinary drugs, including hormones and antibiotics, into fields where they run off into lakes and streams.
- Commercial operations sometimes improperly dispose of PPCPs.
The best and most cost-effective way to ensure safe water at the tap is to keep our source waters clean. As a society, we should encourage policies that protect source water from contaminants introduced by human activity. Consumers should never flush unused medications down toilets or sinks. Instead, consumers should check to see if their pharmacy accepts medications for disposal, or contact their local health department for information about proper disposal of medications and other materials that could potentially harm the environment, such as cleaning products, pesticides and automotive products.