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Keywords:

  • Biotransformation;
  • Drug contaminants;
  • Ecotoxicity;
  • Liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry;
  • Identification

Abstract

The occurrence of human and veterinary pharmaceuticals in the environment has been a subject of concern for the past decade because many of these emerging contaminants have been shown to persist in soil and water. Although recent studies indicate that pharmaceutical contaminants can pose long-term ecological risks, many of the investigations regarding risk assessment have only considered the ecotoxicity of the parent drug, with very little attention given to the potential contributions that metabolites may have. The scarcity of available environmental data on the human metabolites excreted into the environment or the microbial metabolites formed during environmental biodegradation of pharmaceutical residues can be attributed to the difficulty in analyzing trace amounts of previously unknown compounds in complex sample matrices. However, with the advent of highly sensitive and powerful analytical instrumentations that have become available commercially, it is likely that an increased number of pharmaceutical metabolites will be identified and included in environmental risk assessment. The present study will present a critical review of available literature on pharmaceutical metabolites, primarily focusing on their analysis and toxicological significance. It is also intended to provide an overview on the recent advances in analytical tools and strategies to facilitate metabolite identification in environmental samples. This review aims to provide insight on what future directions might be taken to help scientists in this challenging task of enhancing the available data on the fate, behavior, and ecotoxicity of pharmaceutical metabolites in the environment.