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Scottish Project Tackles Environmental Impact Of Pharmaceutical Drugs

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A new Scottish health project aims to tackle the harm caused to the environment by pharmaceutical drugs.


It has been clear for years now that the pharmaceutical industry is causing widespread harm to the environment. Around the world pharmaceutical companies have been polluting the environment for decades, with the result that 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.

While a proportion of the drugs in tap water results from people flushing their unused prescriptions down the toilet, or from not all of the pills being metabolized in patients’ bodies and thus similarly ending up in the sewer system, vast amounts of pharmaceuticals are also being released legally into waterways providing water for drinking.

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 under-reported subject, read this article on our website.

Read article on the BBC News website (UK)
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