Could you explain the content and aim of the PILLS project?
There is general awareness in the expert and water communities that medical waste via aquatic pathways is an emerging issue of concern; however, we do not have sufficient knowledge to take targeted action.
The PILLS partnership aims at finding out, whether the separation and local treatment of concentrated, pharmaceutically burdened wastewater from its sources (such as hospitals or care homes) can be regarded as a sustainable and cost-effective step for the reduction of such substances in the aquatic system.
Since measures at treatment plants are `end-of-pipe´ approaches and likely very cost intensive, they should be regarded as the last technical step to take – the earlier in-situ treatment as well as measures to avoid pollution of the aquatic system with human pharmaceuticals are the main focus of the PILLS project.
Therefore the aims of the project are
- to gain comparable (scientific and practical) solutions for the treatment of waste water from various sources;
- to widen discussion about the problem in order to increase the awareness of people about protective measures.
Do you realize any developments in enduring medical waste management?
Developments are taking place, in monitoring, gathering and assessment data and in pilot approaches to possible solutions. However, it is far too early at this point of time to set out regulations, because of knowledge and experience base first has to be broadened. This is why initiatives like the PILLS project (with partners from France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) or the cooperation of Rhine basin countries within the International Rhine Commission (contracting parties: France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland and the EU) are of crucial importance.
On the website it is stated that the amount of pharmaceuticals that are nowadays in our waters isn’t dangerous to humans yet. Because the project got EU funding it is assumed that the amount of pharmaceuticals in our water will rise. Do you agree with that?
There seems now increasing awareness of pharmaceuticals and other micro-pollutants entering our water cycle, not least because the traditional pollutants have been reduced to a considerable extent. To give an example, the Rhine river had in the 1970s still the nickname “sewer of Europe”, whilst today it is home again to the salmon, one of the symbols of cleaner waters. Experts opinion e.g. from the International Rhine Commission would support the assumption that the amounts of pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment is likely to increase. This is why solutions will have to be considered in an integrated way, not simply a traditional ‘end-of-pipe’ approach. The PILLS project has got the chance to provide a major contribution towards shaping out future thinking on pharmaceuticals in the water cycle.