Typically, wastewater treatment plants are not equipped to remove pharmaceuticals. When scientists from the United States Geological Survey tested effluent from the Morgantown, West Virginia, plant several years ago, along with the discharges from six other treatment plants, it detected very high levels of some drugs.
There is widespread evidence that pharmaceutical pollution has become a global problem. Around the world pharmaceutical companies have been polluting the environment for decades now. As a result, even drinking water supplies have become contaminated with measurable amounts of dangerous chemical drugs. Rarely admitted by public health authorities, the fact is that water treatment plants were never designed to deal with the presence of toxic pharmaceutical compounds.
In the United States, tests have suggested that at least 51 million people are drinking water contaminated with pharmaceuticals. The actual numbers may be far higher, however. A recent study confirmed that water treatment plants taking discharges from pharmaceutical companies are putting high concentrations of drugs into American waterways. While the long-term consequences of this are not yet fully understood, research has already shown that mixtures of drugs are disrupting the endocrine systems of fish in the United States, feminizing them, altering behavior and reproduction, changing growth, and increasing liver sizes.
On the other side of the Atlantic, scientists in the UK have found powerful cancer and psychiatric drugs in tap water. They warn that a developing fetus is exposed to these drugs in the womb and that consequent damage to its cells could be serious. A study published in 2018 found 29 types of drugs in British rivers, including antidepressants, antibiotics, and epilepsy medications.
To learn more about this important issue, read this article on our website.