Research of pharmaceutical pollution of sources of drinking water supply in Moscow in the wastewater discharge zones of the large cities or industrial enterprises

Date of publication:

Grant number:


Area of scientific knowledge:

Earth Sciences

Competition type:

Competition of scientific projects carried out by young researchers (My first grant)

Year of implementation:



Kozlova M.A.

Application status:



Abstract for the application:

For the Russian water management, the problem of contamination of surface, drinking and waste water by xenobiotics, including pharmaceutical substances, is largely unexplored, with the absence of certified analytical methodologies of their identification and regulatory established values of maximum permissible concentrations. Meanwhile, municipal and some industrial wastewaters have plenty of different groups of pharmaceutical substances and their metabolites, remains of personal hygiene items, steroids and so on. The concentration of such substances usually does not exceed 1 mg/l, being approximately within the range 10-100 ng/l. Uncontrolled input of medicinal products into the environment may have a negative impact on the biota and humans. All this leads to the necessity of regular control over the amount of medication in the environment; identifying real sources of pharmaceutical pollution; providing purification of the environment, including water, from medication and developing a system of corresponding legislative and regulatory measures.

The scientific novelty consists in the increasing knowledge about the presence of medication in natural and waste waters of water objects located in the Moscow region and drinking water supply sources of Moscow, as well as in developing methods for assessing the risk of such pollution and interpreting the obtained results in relation to human health. The research will allow one to collect statistical data, compare them with one’s own results and the findings of foreign research, prepare cartographic materials.

According to the available literature, similar works are not carried out on the territory of Russia, they fully meet the international level. This study is of high importance in the field of environmental protection, water quality and human health assessment, as well as in developing new approaches and methods for identifying and estimating the risk of such pollution and interpreting the results in relation to human health.

Realization of the project will allow one to systematize and deepen the results, analyze the current state of the pharmaceutical contamination of water and offer specific recommendations on evaluating the risk of such pollution and measures taken to decrease it.


Abstract of the final report on the project results:

The project considers the problem of the input of pharmaceutical substances into the aquatic environment, and insufficiently purified municipal wastewater is their main source. At the same time, many medicinal substances, depending on the sorption coefficients, kinetics of transformation and half-life period, fall into wastewater unchanged, as well as in the form of their metabolites, which are understudied.

During the realization of the project, a programme of regular monitoring of pharmaceutical pollution was developed (see fig. 1), which must be implemented by the federal authorities (for example, Roshydromet), and not only by separate scientific organizations.

Скриншот 2020-06-08 12.57.06.png

Fig. 1 - A programme of regular monitoring of pharmaceutical water pollution

Notation keys: PS – pharmaceutical substances, C-MS – chromatography-mass spectrometry,

ICT – immune-chemical testing


In the period 2018-2020, expeditionary research was carried out in order to determine the pharmaceutical pollution of Moscow’s drinking water supply sources in the areas of wastewater discharge from major settlements or industrial enterprises, namely the cities of Dmitrov, Dubna, Konakovo, Tver, Istra, Zvenigorod. In Zvenigorod, research was conducted for the first time (see fig. 2).

   Рис. 2.jpg

Fig. 2 – Sampling locations in 2018 – 2020


Four different methods were applied in the work. In August 2018, to test the method of identifying pharmaceutical substances, we used a rather simple integral method of identifying the maximum possible variety of organic xenobiotics without employing standard samples (i.e. we can say that this method is semi-quantitative). In February and August 2019, and also February 2020, high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS) was used in order to define the presence of caffeine, naproxen, sulphamethoxazole, trimethoprim, atenolol, dexamethasone, ofloxacin and erythromycin; the method of fluorescence polarization immunoassay (FPA) helped to define the presence of chloramphenicol (levomycetin) and enzyme immunoassays (EIA) – to identify gentamicin, levomycetin and macrolide antibiotics.

As a result, a number of pharmaceutical substances were identified in the samples. Their concentrations in different seasons (summer-winter) were compared. All the compounds that were found have been assessed in terms of their dangerous impact on humans and some kinds of hydrobionts, using the navigation and calculation system of information technologies created by the head of the project. The estimates have demonstrated that the compounds reveal or may reveal various serious types of toxic (side) effects, for example, cytotoxic activity (naproxen, sulphamethoxazole), embryotoxic activity (ofloxacin, caffeine, erythromycin, trimethoprim, atenolol), ulceration (naproxen, sulphamethoxazole), teratogenicity (erythromycin, trimethoprim, atenolol), etc. Moreover, some quantitative indicators have been calculated: the bioaccumulation factor, LC50 for daphnias and phoxinus, IGC50 for tetrahymena pyriformis.

It is also necessary to take into account that not only pharmaceutical substances enter the aquatic environment, but also their metabolites and transformation products, which may often appear more biologically active than the basic substances. We have offered a method of calculating potential metabolites of the medication found in the samples in order to further define their amount in water.

In the course of the work, the efficiency of different methods of wastewater purification from pharmaceutical pollution was tested. It has been shown that there is no single reliable method that would allow one to effectively purify water from any medicinal products. Furthermore, it is essential to keep in mind that every purification or water preparation station receives water with its own characteristic composition.

Legislative and regulatory aspects of the reduction of pharmaceutical water pollution have been analyzed. Unfortunately, in Russia there is no single document that would regulate the medicinal contamination of the environment. Today, there is no control over the amount of pharmaceutical compounds within the state monitoring of water objects in Russia. It is necessary to improve the legislation for decreasing the pharmaceutical pollution of the environment, involving better control of the pollution sources (enterprises, medical institutions, animal farms, etc) and regulation of collection and disposal of expired medication from the population.   


Photo gallery:

Photographs taken by the head of the project at sampling locations


Sampling location – the Staraya Yakhroma Channel, area of purified wastewater discharge from the city of Dmitrov (Dmitrov), August 2018



Sampling location – the Moskva R., area of purified wastewater discharge from the city of Zvenigorod (Zvenigorod), August 2018




Sampling location – the Istra R., area of purified wastewater discharge from the city of Istra (Trusovo), February 2019



Sampling location – the North Kanavka stream, area of purified wastewater discharge from the city of Dubna, February 2020



Sampling location – the Moskva R., area of purified wastewater discharge from the city of Zvenigorod (Zvenigorod), February 2020



Sampling location – the Peremerki stream (flowing into the Volga R.), area of purified wastewater discharge from the city of Tver (Bolshiye Peremerki), February 2020