The European Commission (EC) has added 12 new substances to the European Union’s (EU’s) priority list of chemicals known to pose a risk to the safety of surface waters. In addition, for the first time, the EC has placed three pharmaceuticals—an anti-inflammatory painkiller and two hormone treatments—on a ‘watch list’ of emerging pollutants that the EC said could eventually be added to the priority list.

“Water policy is a long-term policy,” commented Austrian Member of European Parliament Richard Seeber, who steered the legislation through the committee stages. “Our citizens should have access to clean water in every form … Unfortunately, studies show that we have some way to go to achieve good environmental status for chemicals, particularly in surface waters.” Commenting on the addition of drugs to the list, Seeber reportedly noted that this will be a “very interesting field in the future, because our waters are unfortunately increasingly burdened with pharmaceuticals.”

The updated directive amends the 2000 Water Framework Directive, which governs how river, lake and coastal waters are monitored and how emissions into them are controlled across the EU. See European Parliament News Release, July 2, 2013;, July 8, 2013.