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Bioaccumulation of five pharmaceuticals at multiple trophic levels in an aquatic food web - Insights from a field experiment

Lagesson, A., Fahlman, J., Brodin, T., Fick, J., Jonsson, M., Byström, P., Klaminder, J.
The Science of the total environment 2016 v.568 pp. 208-215
Ephemeroptera, Perca fluviatilis, aquatic food webs, aquatic invertebrates, bioaccumulation factor, diclofenac, drugs, field experimentation, humans, larvae, manufacturing, perch, snails, surface water, trimethoprim, trophic levels
Pharmaceuticals derived from manufacturing and human consumption contaminate surface waters worldwide. To what extent such pharmaceutical contamination accumulates and disperses over time in different compartments of aquatic food webs is not well known. In this study we assess to what extent five pharmaceuticals (diphenhydramine, oxazepam, trimethoprim, diclofenac, and hydroxyzine) are taken up by fish (European perch) and four aquatic invertebrate taxa (damselfly larvae, mayfly larvae, waterlouse, and ramshorn snail), by tracing their bioconcentrations over several months in a semi-natural large-scale (pond) system. The results suggest both significant differences among drugs in their capacity to bioaccumulate and differences among species in uptake. While no support for in situ uptake of diclofenac and trimethoprim was found, oxazepam, diphenhydramine, and hydroxyzine were detected in all analyzed species. Here, the highest bioaccumulation factor (tissue:water ratio) was found for hydroxyzine. In the food web, the highest concentrations were found in the benthic species ramshorn snail and waterlouse, indicating that bottom-living organism at lower trophic positions are the prime receivers of the pharmaceuticals. In general, concentrations in the biota decreased over time in response to decreasing water concentrations. However, two interesting exceptions to this trend were noted. First, mayfly larvae (primarily grazers) showed peak concentrations (a fourfold increase) of oxazepam, diphenhydramine, and hydroxyzine about 30days after initial addition of pharmaceuticals. Second, perch (top-predator) showed an increase in concentrations of oxazepam throughout the study period. Our results show that drugs can remain bioavailable for aquatic organism for long time periods (weeks to months) and even re-enter the food web at a later time. As such, for an understanding of accumulation and dispersion of pharmaceuticals in aquatic food webs, detailed ecological knowledge is required.