Flushing Drugs Into The Environment

drugfishscaledNew studies indicate that potent pharmaceutical drugs flushed into the environment through human and animal sewage could be one of the causes of a global wildlife decline.

Research published in September, 2015 indicates that half of the world’s wild animals had been wiped out in the last 40 years and that in freshwater habitats, where drug residues are most commonly found 75% of fish and amphibians had been lost.  At the same time worldwide use of drugs, which are designed to be biologically active in low concentrations is rising rapidly.  There may be a connection.

Pharmaceuticals can contaminate the environment through discharges from drug factories as well as through sewage.

What’s showing up in our lakes, streams, and water supplies?  Residues of anti-depressants, amphetamines, synthetic hormones used in birth-control pills, anti-inflammatory drugs, and others.  A paper by Anette Kuster and Nicole Adler of Gernany’s Federal Environment Agency identified the most environmentally dangerous drugs.  For medicinal drugs taken by humans, it’s hormones, antibiotics, painkillers, antidepressants, and anti-cancer drugs.  For veterinary drugs given to animals, it’s hormones, antibiotics and parasiticides.

There are some dramatic examples of wildlife harmed by drug contamination:  male fish being feminized by the synthetic hormones in birth-control pills, vultures in India almost wiped out by an anti-inflammatory drug given to cattle whose carcasses they feed upon, and inter-sex frogs found in urban ponds contaminated with wastewater, and minnows in lakes wiped out by the synthetic oestrogen used in the birth control pill.

Just as people are concerned about how drug contamination impacts the environment, consumers are increasingly concerned about pharmaceutical residues and other hormone disrupting chemicals in drinking water. These chemicals are not regulated, but studies have shown that they are showing up in trace amounts in drinking water.   The source of the drinking water that comes out of your tap and it’s quality are the primary factors here.

As water quality continues to be impacted by drugs flushed into the environment, we may soon be asked for a doctor’s prescription when we order a glass of ice water at a restaurant.

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