Analysing the impact of pharmaceuticals on crops

This study is examining how pharmaceuticals in the environment can impact upon common crop plants.

Through a number of analytical procedures, the research team are gathering preliminary data on the effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs upon crops such as lettuce and radish.

The research will initially focus on the effects of pharmaceuticals upon seedling germination and emergence before moving on to consider other aspects of plant development, as well as examining the potential uptake of drugs into the plants.

The team are hoping to shed light on how plants absorb chemicals from soil, and understand to what degree these chemicals are stored, and transferred, to edible parts.

Although the presence of pharmaceuticals in aquatic and terrestrial environments is now established, the risks are not well understood. Concerns have been raised by regulatory bodies and the media about the impact of environmental contamination from pharmaceuticals, and the possible impact on human health.

A number of previous studies have considered the effects of medicines in water but the terrestrial environment has received far less attention – resulting in a lack of data about the effects on plant growth.

Ageing populations, changing disease profiles, health epidemics and the growing availability of cheap generic drugs have led to rapid growth in pharmaceutical demand. These drugs commonly reach land based environments through the use of drug laden sewage-sludge on farmland, as well as via the use of contaminated irrigation water.

As pressure mounts upon food production due to changing climatic conditions and an expanding global population, there is a growing need to understand the impact of pharmaceuticals upon plant health. This study aims to fill the lack of data in this area.