The increased use and large disposal volumes of pharmaceuticals in Europe has raised concern about their impacts in marine ecosystems. Though pharmaceuticals undergo degradation, some compounds can escape through sewage treatment and remain in the environment over time.
The Arctic is particularly susceptible to environmental change and stressors such as pharmaceutical pollutants. However, the knowledge of presence, exposure, and effects of pharmaceuticals on Arctic fauna is very limited. Bioaccumulation and biomagnification of pharmaceuticals in benthic food webs will be studied in Svalbard fjords. Selected species will be exposed to pharmaceuticals to assess potential harmful effects through a series of biological end points. This will provide novel empirical information on biological impacts and the threat pharmaceuticals pose on the Arctic marine ecosystem. The resulting biological stress indicators will provide a tool to forecast and assess environmental risk of pharmaceuticals in the European Arctic. Diclofenac (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), tetracycline (antibiotic), fluoxetine (antidepressant) and simvastatin (lipid lowering drug) are initially selected as model pharmaceuticals.