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Extension Grant to Help Keep Medicines, Other Chemicals Out of Environment

Senior Research Chemist Wei Zheng and his ISTC colleagues have been tracking the influence of PPCPs in nature for years

The University of Illinois Extension Friday announced it has funded a program to deepen our understanding of medical drugs and personal care products (PPCP) in the environment, and to put the benefits of university research to work in extension offices statewide.

Extension's statewide network of educators and county-based offices provide programming in economic development, health and nutrition, agriculture and natural resources, and youth development.

Wei Zheng, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, is the principal investigator for the work titled "Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products: Extending Knowledge and Mitigation Strategies." The grant, research and outreach efforts will be shared with professionals of the Illinois Indiana Sea Grant Program (IISGP).

ISTC and IISGP have collaborated on previous work to trace the presence of hormones, ibuprofen, and many other substances as they move through storm water, waste water treatment plants and agricultural irrigation systems. They have also partnered to establish prescription drug drop-off points at Champaign County law enforcement offices.

Among the concerns about PPCPs are that by pouring unwanted drugs into sewers, and through human and animal wastes, these bio-active effects can have negative effects when they persist in the environment. Minnesota recently became the first state to ban the use of Triclosan (by 2017), a widely used anti-baterial additive in PPCPs. Work at ISTC and elsewhere have demonstrated that Triclosan can produce resistance in bacterial communities in streams.

The three-year extension grant will help establish drop-off points in other Illinois counties and to continue the work to establish the efficiency of current water treatment technologies to remove these little-studied emerging classes of pollutants. The support will also allow ISTC to continue the development of a promising new technology for tertiary treatment of PPCPs.

That project was one of six projects, growing out of a partnership between U of I Extension, the Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES), and the Office of the Provost. The six awards were selected from a pool of 71 pre-proposals from 16 different campus units.

"The six projects moving forward are outstanding examples of the impact and value that extension and outreach can provide to a variety of disciplines throughout the University," said Robert Hauser, Dean of ACES.

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