The pharmaceutical industry depends on many chemicals that contribute to the treatment or prevention of many diseases, but there is growing concern about the leakage of some of these drugs into waterways such as rivers and lakes.
To investigate this matter, PhD researcher Eva Hammerod at King’s College London asked four experts in toxicology and environmental sciences the question “Are the levels of current pharmaceutical chemicals leaking into waterways dangerous?” Read also Like a human, sound pollution disturbs the fish and forces them to leave A recent study: Fish swallowed micro plastics for 70 years Fishing with ecological DNA instead of electrocution Leakage of psychotropic drugs into waterways poses a threat to fish
Are current rates of pharmaceutical chemicals leaking into waterways normal?
According to the report published by Science Alert , a 2014 study was able to determine levels of pharmaceutical chemicals in 80% of water samples collected from 30 different US states.
Also it indicated a study reference other published in 2015 in the journal “Toxicology Anfirumntal AT & Kimistra” (Environmental Toxicology Chemistry) that there are more than one thousand study has detected the presence of these chemicals in 71 countries in the world.
This study found that there are more than 600 different pharmaceutical chemicals in lakes, rivers and groundwater, and these chemicals included antibiotics, pain relievers, beta-blockers, pregnancy-regulating hormones, antidepressants, and others.
How does pharmaceuticals end up in waterways?
There are many ways that medicines and drugs eventually leak into waterways, lakes and rivers.
The sewage channels are among these main ways. When we take medicines, our bodies absorb a small part of their chemical components, while the other part is excreted in the excretory processes, as well as directly and incorrectly getting rid of medicines by pouring them into the toilet increases their presence in the waterways.
Chemicals, such as antibiotics and hormones, also escape naturally during farming and livestock farming, practices that use many chemicals to treat diseases or improve production.
In addition, pharmaceutical factories also contribute to the seepage of pharmaceutical chemicals into the waterways. For example, very high levels of some antibiotics were found in a sewage treatment plant near a number of pharmaceutical factories in India.
Although the wastewater is treated, “these treatment processes are not effective in preventing the spread of pharmaceutical chemicals into the aquatic ecosystem,” says Bruno Nunes, a toxicologist at Aveiro University in Portugal.
What is the effect of these substances on aquatic life?
We don’t have much data to know the full effect of these chemicals on aquatic life, but there are some examples that show forms of toxicity in wildlife.
For example, the anti-inflammatory drug Diclofenac – known commercially as Voltaren – has been found in ordinary waterways. This drug can damage and may destroy kidney and digestive tissues in fish.
Nunes attributes this to the fact that “some of these drugs may interact with some other substances, and the interaction sometimes gives them the ability to damage the functions of organs in many aquatic species.”
Likewise, drugs may also harm aquatic life in an indirect way. Mike Grace, an environmental scientist at Monash University in Australia, says that current levels of pharmaceutical chemical residues are dangerous, because they “have semi-lethal effects on key ecosystems.” such as photosynthesis and the nutrient cycle.
“Pharmaceutical chemical residues present in detectable concentrations in waterways are known globally as ‘ecosystems’ residuals,” says Grace.
For example, it has been proven that chemical preparations of estrogen – which is used as a compensatory treatment to overcome a deficiency or stop its natural secretion in women and is also included in pregnancy-regulating drugs – cause a disturbance in the ecosystem by feminizing the males of fish of some species, which leads to a disruption of the male-to-male ratio. females.
Is there a danger to humans?
Dr. Grace states that the levels of pharmaceutical chemicals currently in waterways are not dangerous to humans who drink or use water in their daily lives, because they are present in concentrations much lower than those that are harmful to human physiology.