What do all these have in common?
Prescription drugs such as hormones (birth control pills, estrogen replacement drugs, etc.), antidepressants, and antibiotics; and,
Over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.), cold/flu remedies, and antiseptics (germ killing liquids); and,
They have all been detected in rivers, lakes and coastal waters throughout the United States and Europe in increasing concentrations of parts per billion to parts per trillion.
There are two ways that medications enter the sewer system and wind up at a wastewater treatment plant: (1) excretion by the human body in urine and feces and (2) disposal of unused or expired medications down the toilet or drain.
Wastewater treatment plants are designed to remove conventional pollutants such as solids and biodegradable materials; they are not designed to remove man-made pollutants such as medications, which are only partially destroyed and then discharged to rivers or the ocean. These same water bodies are the source of drinking water for many communities, so there is a growing concern about long-term health effects on humans, fish, and animals.
The growing concern has also spawned numerous scientific studies by various governments, institutions, and NGOs. Recent studies have found that human drugs can disrupt the biology and behavior of fish and other aquatic life at very low concentrations. Of particular concern is the alarming increase of hormone disruptive chemicals being found in our waterways, which affect the conception, development, puberty, and procreation. One news report calls these “Gender Bending Chemicals” because of their effect on male development.
What are the solutions? Stop flushing unused medications, vitamins, etc. down the sink or toilet. Lobby your municipality and local governments to install more effective processing systems, such as, reverse osmosis, advanced oxidation, UV and hydrogen peroxide.
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