MEP Schreijer-Pierik: 'EU strategy needed to tackle pharmaceutical residues in the environment'

Back 12 oktober 2018

MEP Schreijer-Pierik: 'EU strategy needed to tackle pharmaceutical residues in the environment'

Annie Schreijer-Pierik, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament representing the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) party (EPP), has once again asked questions in the European Parliament about the lack of a European strategy for dealing with pharmaceutical residues in the environment (PIE). In her written questions, Ms Schreijer-Pierik states that member states, citizens, producers and other stakeholders are still waiting for the European Commission to put forward an overarching EU strategy. Mr Karmenu Vella (European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) had indicated in his reply to earlier questions from MEP Schreijer-Pierik (Dutch web page) that he would present the strategic approach by the summer of 2018. The Association of Dutch Water Companies (Vewin) has been advocating such a European strategy for years, with the aim of strengthening the Dutch chain-based approach to reduce pharmaceutical residues in water.

Delay or cancellation?

In the public debate, in newspapers and in the Brussels corridors, it is feared that the delay will lead to cancellation. It is therefore important for the European Parliament to exert pressure on the European Commission. Such pressure is also being exerted in the member states, as evidenced by a letter that the Netherlands and other member states recently sent to the Commission, calling for the strategy to be presented during the Commission's current term of office. 

Pharmaceutical residues present a growing problem

Pharmaceutical residues are posing growing problems in the water cycle, partly due to increased use of medication. Such residues leave the human body, end up in the sewer system, and are not sufficiently purified in sewage treatment plants. They end up in rivers and other water bodies, posing a threat to drinking water sources and the natural environment. 

Protecting drinking water sources

Vewin believes that efforts must be made to reduce pharmaceutical residues in surface water and groundwater. On the one hand, Vewin advocates an effective preventive strategy 'at source'. On the other hand, responsibility must be shared between all links in the chain, from parties involved in medicine development to wastewater treatment plants and drinking water production companies. The overall aim is that the quality of groundwater and surface water should be sufficient for the production of drinking water using simple treatment methods. The costs of water treatment must not be passed on to drinking water consumers. 

Importance of an international approach

Vewin emphasizes the importance of an international approach based on EU legislation, as a large proportion of the medicines in Dutch (surface) waters originate from emissions in other countries. The European Strategy for Pharmaceuticals in the Environment should focus on the entire medicine chain, looking at various measures such as promoting voluntary initiatives at EU or member state level, as well as mandatory measures.

Read the questions asked by MEP Schreijer-Pierik

Read the answers previously given by the European Commission in March 2018

Read Vewin's position on the European Strategy for Pharmaceuticals in the Environment (Dutch web page)

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