Drugs for man and the environment?

The project aims to implement one of the recommendations from the handbook “Communications strategies to raise environmental awareness regarding drug usage” by educating physicians and raising their awareness for the topic.

Research approach

Interviews that ISOE held with doctors during the project „start – Strategies for coping with drugs in drinking water“ have shown that the environmental aspects related to prescribing, taking and disposing of drugs hardly play a role in a physician’s daily professional life. In order to raise awareness for the topic with future physicians, the project team will integrate the topic of the environmental relevance of drug and metabolite residue in the water and how it relates to physicians’ own actions into physicians’ training curriculum. The project will be receiving support thanks to strategic partnerships with medical professionals, universities and facilities for continuing medical education. The University of Witten-Herdecke is the project’s partner for medical training and education. Together with its partners, the project team is developing educational material that will be used in a pilot approach during training and education and will then be evaluated.


Today, drug residue is found in nearly all bodies of surface water, in groundwater and in some cases even in drinking water. Drugs get into the water cycle firstly through incorrect disposal, but above all by being used as prescribed: After being ingested, the active agents or their metabolites are excreted mainly via the urine. In order to reduce the amount of drugs in the water, ISOE developed a communication strategy on behalf of the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA), focusing mainly on raising awareness for and consciousness of the topic with physicians.

Project partners

  • European Academy for Environmental Medicine e.V.
  • Leuphana University Lüneburg, Institute for Sustainable Environmental Chemistry
  • ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research
  • IUTA – Institut für Energie- und Umwelttechnik e.V., Duisburg
  • University of Witten/Herdecke, Faculty and Institute for Research into Healthcare Systems


ISOE is implementing the project “Drugs for man and the environment? Implementing recommendations from the handbook ‘Communication strategies to strengthen environmental awareness regarding drug usage. Contributing to sustainable drug use’” on behalf of the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA).


Walz, Anna/Konrad Götz (2014): Arzneimittelwirkstoffe im Wasserkreislauf. ISOE-Materialien Soziale Ökologie, 36. Frankfurt am Main: ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

Götz, Konrad/Anna Walz/Thekla Kiffmeyer/Klaus Kümmerer/Peter Ohnsorge/Max Geraedts (2017): Arznei für Mensch und Umwelt? Umsetzung der Empfehlungen des Handbuches Kommunikationsstrategien zur Schärfung des Umweltbewusstseins im Umgang mit Arzneimitteln - ein Beitrag zum nachhaltigen Umgang mit Arzneimitteln. UBA-Texte, 18. Dessau-Roßlau: Umweltbundesamt


2012/08 – 2015/07

Contact person

 +49 69 7076919-0

Project team