When drugs reach rivers and lakes, it may result in severe consequences. The very medicine you take, believe or not, maybe drugging our freshwater resources. Do you want to know how? Hold on tight, and read on. Because these are the five things you need to know about pharmaceutical pollution.
- Pharmaceutical Pollution Defined
The term “Pharmaceutical Pollution” is a form of water pollution wherein drugs from wastewater, like the one you used in the baths and toilet flushing, reach the aquatic ecosystems. The drug contamination is commonly affecting freshwaters like rivers, lakes, and groundwater.
- Fish under the Influence of Drugs
When fishes thrive in drug-intoxicated waters, there are several unpleasant side effects for these poor creatures. Here are some of it:
- Feminised Fish. A condition called “intersex” in fishes was identified in rivers contaminated with pharmaceutical products. Estrogen, a chemical commonly found in birth control pills, is suspected to “feminise” male fishes. Male fishes behaving like females significantly reduce their reproductive performance, thus, endangering the population of this wildlife species.
- Angry Fish. The components commonly found in anxiety pills are now making the fishes angry, like literally. The European Perch, with a scientific name of Perca fluviatilis, is now one of the fiercest fish after taking traces of Oxazepam. According to a study, these fishes turned anti-social and voracious, making them more prone to predators, increasing their mortality very rapidly.
- Less-Intimate Fish. A study shows that when fishes ingest traces of drugs, it can cause them altered reproductive behaviours. A significant reduction in their sexual aggression will be noticed like weakened courtship rituals and being less protective to nesting females. Extreme cases include failure to develop secondary sexual characteristics, and deformed sexual organs.
3. Transporting Drugs into Freshwaters
There are several ways to cause pharmaceutical pollution. These are the most common ways to distribute drugs into freshwater ecosystems:
- Flushing it Down the Toilet. Most of the medicines we take are oral-dosed. Some parts of it are absorbed by the body, while some will be excreted in our urine and faecal discharge. Because most of our wastewater treatment systems might not be capable of filtering out these drug components, it may eventually end up on our rivers.
- Improper Drug Disposal. Some people are getting rid of unused medications, like the ones expired for example, through flushing it down the sinks or toilets. This malpractice undoubtedly increases the concentration of drugs to wastewaters, causing more pharmaceutical pollution.
- Wastewater Treatment Fouls. Most of the wastewater treatment plants are not capable of filtering half of the dissolved drug chemicals from the used water of human settlements. Because of this foul, a lot of drug chemicals reach the rivers and negatively affects the lives depending on it.
4. Drugs in Drinking Water
Since these pharmaceutical chemicals can pass through the wastewater treatments, the tap water flowing into your homes also contains traces of these drugs. Some are even claiming that drinking water may contain estrogen, making our men run wild to femininity, just like what happened to the feminised fish. But before you freak out, hear me out first. This rumour is a hoax or a false alarm to be exact. Although the tap waters are positive for drugs, it’s not true that it affects our health on that level. The traces are too low that to ingest an amount equal to a 400-milligram Ibuprofen, we need to drink 200 million litres of tap water, which is equivalent to 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It might not be too harmful right now, but when the concentration goes higher, and the pharmaceutical pollution goes more profound, there should be severe consequences, right? If drinking it doesn’t make you feel bad, then how about eating one of those feminised and angry fishes, huh?
- Preventions for Pharmaceutical Pollution
Of course, this list will never be complete without a course of action. So, if you want to go against pharmaceutical pollution, here are the things you can do:
- Do Not Overdose. We people have a habit of self-diagnosing. That’s why a lot of us take medicines without prescriptions. Millions of people abuse using medicines, in desperation for quick relief, even if your body doesn’t need it anymore. People, please stop this. If you want to know what’s wrong with your body, see a doctor and be patient. That’s for a safer you, and for a safer environment.
- Proper Disposal of Pharmaceutical Products. If you don’t know how to dispose of your unused or expired medicines properly, ask your pharmacist. There are a lot of proper ways to eliminate it, and flushing it down to your toilets and sinks are not included.
- Back to Treatment Plants. Because of the rising concern about drugs in water, wastewater treatment plants should immediately upgrade their systems to combat pharmaceutical pollution. It’s not a passive problem anymore, because it’s getting more dangerous every day.
If you don’t feel like devastating our aquatic richness, better do your part. This newly-recognised type of pollution is now a growing concern, so there’s no time to ignore it. Pharmaceutical pollution is not a trick, it’s a real thing that’s harming our freshwater wildlife. Experts are expecting a 65% increase in drug concentration in water by 2050, so actions are needed to be done as soon as possible. It’s a real problem folks, creeping silently into the system, and most of us may not know it yet. So, spread the word and join the cause. Say “NO” to drugging our waters.
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