Eighteen months of PHARMASEA

Pharmasea zugeschnitten

9 March, 2023


After 18 months from the beginning of the PHARMASEA project, preliminary results of the first large scale field investigation, covering the North Sea, part of the Atlantic Ocean, Western Mediterranean and the Adriatic Sea, have helped us to characterize pharmaceuticals in seawater, sediments and biota from different trophic levels. Laboratory studies were performed on marine mussels and polychaetes exposed to environmentally realistic levels of antidepressants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cardiovascular compounds, and lipid lowering agents, tested both as isolated molecules and as mixtures. Obtained results revealed not only the capability of these organisms to accumulate pharmaceuticals, but also the onset of sub-lethal alterations. Similarly, other experiments revealed that APIs also significantly affected the growth of marine algae and the embryonic development of sea urchins and zebrafish. By integrating preliminary results through a quantitative “Weight of Evidence” approach, we could start to synthesize the wide datasets of complex and heterogeneous results in specific hazard indices before their integration in an overall risk index.

Since the beginning of PHARMASEA, project activities and results have been disseminated to a wide range of audiences, including scientists, public authorities, private sector organizations, pharma industries, NGOs, citizens, teachers and students.

The publication of PHARMASEA website ( has enabled us to reach target audiences and to provide them access to dissemination material and constant updates from the PHARMASEA project. Similarly, the activation of the PHARMASEA Facebook page ( has helped to maximize the promotion of project activities and increase public awareness toward the issue of pharmaceuticals as emerging contaminants. Outreach activities performed with young students from primary schools enabled to disseminate and promote sustainable behaviours including the correct disposal of domestic medicines.

The involvement of stakeholders from pharmaceutical industries will enable us to assess environmental sustainability of pharmaceuticals, stimulating a green transition towards the development of new drugs that also consider their effects on non-target aquatic species. At the same time, cooperation with wastewater treatment plant engineers could promote a discussion on the need of more appropriate technologies for pharmaceuticals removal. Transfer of project outputs to regulatory bodies relevant to European Directives could address the development of reliable normative guidelines and appropriate strategies for environmental risk assessment. Overall, so far, 5 scientific articles have been published in peer-reviewed international journals, one is currently under revision and three are in preparation. PHARMASEA was present in 8 international and national and conferences with more than 10 contributions as oral and poster presentations. From the activation of the PHARMASEA website, 17 “News” articles were released, and more than 25 Facebook posts were published.


Photo: The PHARMASEA consortium at the first project annual meeting held at the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences (DiSVA) of Polytechnic University of Marche. 23-25 November 2022, Ancona, Italy. (Photo credit: Prof. Daniela Maria Pampanin)

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