River systems around the world are brimming with drugs waste, according to recent studies. Over-the-counter and prescription drug waste including analgesics, antibiotics, anti-platelet agents, hormones, psychiatric drugs and antihistamines have been found at toxic levels in waterways across the world.
The announcement was made by scientists at the European Geosciences Union Conference in Vienna, where they warned that if current trends persist, pharmaceutical waste in rivers could increase by over 60% by 2050. Pharmaceutical effluence leaching into waterways has, in recent years, yielded some notorious results. For example, the release of endocrine disruptors into water systems has been blamed for inducing sex changes in various species of amphibians and fish.
Alarmingly, a study commissioned by UN Environment last year warned that the release of antibiotic and other chemical waste is rapidly driving forward the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria — antimicrobial resistance. The study found that over 70% of all antibiotics consumed by humans and animals eventually find their way into natural environments, prompting growing concern for the future of antibiotics in modern medicine, pittsburgheyeassociates.com/amoxil-treat-infections/.
Particular attention has been drawn to the common anti-inflammatory medication, Diclofenac. Due to the prominence of the drug in waterways across the world, it is commonly used as a proxy to effectively estimate the presence and spread of pharmaceutical waste in freshwater ecosystems.
The usage of the drug in veterinary medicine alone has been attributed to the demise of a species of vulture on the Indian subcontinent, which now stands on the brink of extinction. With both the US Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union highlighting the chemical as a growing environmental threat, over 10,000km of waterways across the world have been found to contain over 100 nanograms per litre. As the usage of the drug grows steadily in medicine, huge swathes of rivers have been placed on a ‘watch list’ by the EU.
In a research paper on pharmaceutical pollution in the rivers Aire and Calder in West Yorkshire, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, scientists from the University of Leeds highlighted a glaring lack of legislation to regulate the presence of drugs in rivers. Whilst the human health impacts of pharmaceutical influence in our water are currently deemed insignificant, major concerns have been drawn to the potential threat to aquatic organism behaviour, growth, reproduction and mortality – even at trace concentrations.
At the same conference, researchers separately presented evidence which found that the expansion of sewage systems into urban areas has greatly contributed to the problem due to a lack of effective treatment.
UN scientists have warned that technology alone cannot solve the problem, however, arguing that a reduction in global drug consumption is the key to affecting change.