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Occurrence and fate of chiral and achiral drugs in estuarine water: a case study of the Clyde estuary, Scotland.

Petrie, Bruce; Moffat, Colin F.


Colin F. Moffat


There is currently a lack of enantiospecific studies on chiral drugs in estuarine environments. In this study, the occurrence and fate of 20 prescription and illicit drugs, metabolites and associated contaminants were investigated in the Clyde Estuary, Scotland, over a 6 month period. More than half of the drugs were detected in at least 50% of water samples collected (n = 30), with considerable enantiomer enrichment observed for some of the compounds. Enantiomeric fraction (EF) values of the chiral drugs investigated in this study ranged from <0.03 for amphetamine to 0.70 for bisoprolol. Microcosm studies revealed enantioselective degradation of fluoxetine and citalopram for the first-time in estuarine waters (over 14 days at 8.0 °C in water of 27.8 practical salinity units). Interestingly, fish collected from the inner estuary (Platichthys flesus – European flounder) contained drug enantiomers in muscle and liver tissues. This included propranolol, fluoxetine, citalopram, and venlafaxine. Considerable enantiospecific differences were observed between the two fish tissues, and between fish tissues and water samples. For example, citalopram EF values in muscle and liver were 0.29 ± 0.03 and 0.18 ± 0.01, respectively. In water samples EF values were in the range 0.36–0.49. This suggests enantioselective metabolism of citalopram by P. flesus. The enantioselectivity of drugs observed within the Clyde Estuary highlights the need for enantiospecific effect-driven studies on marine organisms to better understand their impact in estuarine environments, contributing to the likely cumulative impacts of the range of contaminants to which marine coastal wildlife is exposed.


PETRIE, B. and MOFFAT, C.F. 2022. Occurrence and fate of chiral and achiral drugs in estuarine water: a case study of the Clyde estuary, Scotland. Environmental science process and impacts [online], 24(4), pages 547-556. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 14, 2022
Online Publication Date Feb 25, 2022
Publication Date Apr 1, 2022
Deposit Date Mar 7, 2022
Publicly Available Date Feb 26, 2023
Journal Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts
Print ISSN 2050-7887
Electronic ISSN 2050-7895
Publisher Royal Society of Chemistry
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 4
Pages 547-556
Keywords Marine; Pharmaceutical; Fish; Bioaccumulation factor; Emerging contaminant; River
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