Pharmaceutical Residues in Edible Oysters along the Coasts of the East and South China Seas and Associated Health Risks to Humans and Wildlife

Rongben Wu, Yan Yin Sin, Lin Cai, Youji Wang, Menghong Hu, Xiaoshou Liu, Wenzhe Xu, Kit Yue Kwan, David Gonçalves, Benny Kwok Kan Chan, Kai Zhang, Apple Pui Yi Chui, Song Lin Chua, James Kar Hei Fang, Kenneth Mei Yee Leung

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


The investigation of pharmaceuticals as emerging contaminants in marine biota has been insufficient. In this study, we examined the presence of 51 pharmaceuticals in edible oysters along the coasts of the East and South China Seas. Only nine pharmaceuticals were detected. The mean concentrations of all measured pharmaceuticals in oysters per site ranged from 0.804 to 15.1 ng g-1 of dry weight, with antihistamines being the most common. Brompheniramine and promethazine were identified in biota samples for the first time. Although no significant health risks to humans were identified through consumption of oysters, 100-1000 times higher health risks were observed for wildlife like water birds, seasnails, and starfishes. Specifically, sea snails that primarily feed on oysters were found to be at risk of exposure to ciprofloxacin, brompheniramine, and promethazine. These high risks could be attributed to the monotonous diet habits and relatively limited food sources of these organisms. Furthermore, taking chirality into consideration, chlorpheniramine in the oysters was enriched by the S-enantiomer, with a relative potency 1.1-1.3 times higher when chlorpheniramine was considered as a racemate. Overall, this study highlights the prevalence of antihistamines in seafood and underscores the importance of studying enantioselectivities of pharmaceuticals in health risk assessments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5512-5523
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2024


  • Antibiotics
  • antihistamines
  • enantiomers
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • psychiatric drugs
  • seafood safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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