Pharmaceuticals and personal care products found in the Great Lakes above concentrations of environmental concern

Benjamin D. Blair, Jordan P. Crago, Curtis J. Hedman, Rebecca D. Klaper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The monitoring of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) has focused on the distribution in rivers and small lakes, but data regarding their occurrence and effects in large lake systems, such as the Great Lakes, are sparse. Wastewater treatment processes have not been optimized to remove influent PPCPs and are a major source of PPCPs in the environment. Furthermore, PPCPs are not currently regulated in wastewater effluent. In this experiment we evaluated the concentration, and corresponding risk, of PPCPs from a wastewater effluent source at varying distances in Lake Michigan. Fifty-four PPCPs and hormones were assessed on six different dates over a two-year period from surface water and sediment samples up to 3.2. km from a wastewater treatment plant and at two sites within a harbor. Thirty-two PPCPs were detected in Lake Michigan and 30 were detected in the sediment, with numerous PPCPs being detected up to 3.2. km away from the shoreline. The most frequently detected PPCPs in Lake Michigan were metformin, caffeine, sulfamethoxazole, and triclosan. To determine the ecological risk, the maximum measured environmental concentrations were compared to the predicted no-effect concentration and 14 PPCPs were found to be of medium or high ecological risk. The environmental risk of PPCPs in large lake systems, such as the Great Lakes, has been questioned due to high dilution; however, the concentrations found in this study, and their corresponding risk quotient, indicate a significant threat by PPCPs to the health of the Great Lakes, particularly near shore organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2116-2123
Number of pages8
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by a grant from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Milwaukee, WI, USA to R. Klaper and by an research assistantship for B. Blair from the Great Lakes Consortium for Oceans and Human Health Graduate Training Program, NOAA award number NA06OAR4320119.


  • Great Lakes
  • Hormones
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Risk
  • Sediment
  • Wastewater


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