Prescription Drug Environmental Pollution

Non-Medical marijuana science & studies.

Moderator: administration

Prescription Drug Environmental Pollution

Postby budman » Sun Jul 09, 2006 8:11 pm

Sixwise.Com wrote:Pharmaceutical Pollution: What it is, and How Pharmaceutical Pollution Threatens Your Health

by, 16 Feb 06

Americans are prescribed millions of doses of prescription drugs every year. Livestock are given millions more. But after the pill has been swallowed or the injection taken, the active components of the drugs do not become inert or completely absorbed by the body.

<table class=posttable align=right width=168><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg align=right src=bin/pharm-pollution-1.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcap>One study found that 80 percent of streams tested contained antibiotics, steroids, synthetic hormones or other common drugs.</td></tr></table>Far from disappearing, the drugs are excreted and now, scientists are finding, prescription drugs are showing up in our ground water, soil, waterways and even our drinking water. That's because our conventional sewage treatments may not be looking for drugs, and certainly don't always remove them.

Adding to the problem are prescription drugs that aren't used, then are flushed down the toilet or deposited in landfills -- ultimately ending up in the environment.

This so-called "pharmaceutical pollution" could have major implications on wildlife, agriculture and humans -- yet is only beginning to be studied.

"This is an important new research area," said A. Lynn Roberts, leader of a Johns Hopkins team that began a study to determine the scope of pharmaceutical pollution in the United States. Roberts continued:

"Over the past few years, scientists in Europe have found pharmaceuticals in natural waterways, sewage treatment effluents and even in drinking water. Yet until this year [2003] there have been virtually no scientific studies examining this issue in the United States. It's important that we begin to look at this because there are many ways in which pharmaceuticals in the environment could produce undesirable effects on aquatic organisms or even humans."

<span class=postbold>How Widespread is the Problem?</span>

Current estimates are still being gathered, but a study conducted in 1999-2000 by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found that most waterways contain at least some antibiotics, steroids, synthetic hormones or other common drugs. Out of 139 streams in 30 states, they found:<ul><li>About 80 percent contained trace amounts of contaminants</li>

<li>Half the streams contained seven or more chemical compounds</li>

<li>One-third of the streams contained 10 or more compounds</li>

<li>One water sample contained 38 chemicals</li></ul>"We're not talking about rampant dumping," said one USGS survey official. "We're looking at the effect of normal existing usage for these different chemicals."

Just how many drugs are we using currently? A lot. Here are some statistics just for antibiotics (not including any other types of drugs):
<ul><li>Humans consume 235 million doses of antibiotics each year.</li>

<li>Livestock and poultry producers administered more than 21 million pounds of antibiotics to animals in 2004 alone.</li>

<li>When a drug is taken, experts say up to 90 percent may be excreted back into the environment, unchanged. </li></ul>What kinds of drugs -- and to what extent -- are currently out there is anyone's guess. Padma Venkatraman, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins who is part of the research team, believes the drugs most likely to be found at "toxicologically significant levels" include:<ul><li>Antidepressants</li>


<li>Anti-cancer drugs</li>

<li>Anti-microbials </li></ul>"We're trying to make an intelligent guess as to what's out there in the environment and what's probably toxic," Venkatraman said.

<span class=postbold>Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria on the Rise</span>

<table class=posttable align=right width=164><tr><td class=postcell><img width=164 src=bin/pharm-pollution-2.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcap>Up to 90 percent of a drug you consume may be excreted -- unchanged.</td></tr></table>Just one problem stemming from pharmaceutical pollution is antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When drugs are excreted in waste, the compounds linger in the environment. In the case of livestock waste, the antibiotic-laced manure is spread directly onto farm crops as fertilizer. From there it may run off into nearby streams.

The result is that bacteria is able to mutate into strains that are resistant to the widely spread antibiotics, paving the way for infections that cannot be easily cured.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2 million people in hospitals get infections each year, which cause 90,000 deaths. Of these, more than 70 percent of the bacteria that causes these infections are resistant to at least one common antibiotic that is typically used to treat them.

<span class=postbold>Health Problems Remain a Mystery</span>

"Little is known about the potential interactive effects" from complex mixtures of waste contaminants in the environment, according to USGS.

For instance, Roberts pointed out that antidepressants work by altering levels of serotonin. However, serotonin causes many aquatic creatures to spawn. The result could be that prescription drugs may alter breeding cycles in the wild. Further, drugs can have major impacts on developing fetuses in humans. If small amounts showed up in drinking water, it could cause birth defects or other problems.

"Pharmaceuticals have high biological activity," Roberts said. "We may be able to tolerate them for a short period of time, but that doesn't mean they won't hurt us -- or developing fetuses or aquatic organisms -- at higher concentrations or over a long period of time."

There is good news, and that is that attention to this issue is growing, and so is the drive to find out just what types of problems may be occurring.

The USGS agrees, stating in their report that "protecting the integrity of our water resources is one of the most essential environmental issues of the 21st century."

User avatar
Posts: 232
Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2006 6:38 pm

Potential impact of pharmaceuticals on environmental health

Postby budman » Sun Jul 09, 2006 8:26 pm

The World Health Organization wrote:<center><b>Bulletin of the World Health Organization</b>
Print ISSN 0042-9686</center>

Bull World Health Organ vol.81 no.10 Genebra Oct. 2003

Potential impact of pharmaceuticals on environmental health

Oliver A.H. Jones; Nick Voulvoulis*; John N. Lester

Environmental Processes and Water Technology Research Unit, Department of Environmental Science and Technology, Imperial College, London, London SW7 2AZ, England

For much of the last thirty years, research on the effects of chemical pollution of the environment has focused almost exclusively on conventional "priority" pollutants. These polluants are chemicals that have specific effects on organisms, such as the impacts that organotin compounds (used in antifouling paints on ships) are known to have on marine life. There is, however, another highly variable group of chemical compounds that have the potential to cause harm but which receive relatively little attention as possible environmental pollutants. These are pharmaceuticals, including both human and veterinary drugs, and even illicit (recreational) drugs.

<span class=postbold>Presence of pharmaceuticals in aquatic systems</span>

Around the world, thousands of tons of pharmacologically active substances are used annually but surprisingly little is known about the ultimate fate of most drugs after their intended use. A large proportion of an administered dose (up to 90%) may be excreted, unchanged, while metabolites can be converted back to the active compound via bacterial action (Jones OAH, Voulvoulis N, Lester JN. Human pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment: a review. Environmental Technology 2001;22:1383-94). In addition, the general public often disposes of unused medicines through the sewage system. From published occurrence data it seems likely that a large proportion of urban sewage is contaminated with drug compounds, differing only in the type and abundance of the substances present.

Recent studies have demonstrated that many pharmaceuticals are incompletely eliminated at sewage treatment plants. The existence of drugs in surface waters, groundwater and even marine systems has been confirmed at concentrations of high ng/litre to low mg/litre, rivalling the levels of some pesticides (Daughton CG, Ternes TA. Pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment: agents of subtle change? Environmental Health Perspectives 1999;107:907-42). Drug compounds disposed of in domestic refuse can end up in landfills, where they also pose a threat to surface and underlying groundwater. Furthermore, by contrast with more regulated pollutants — which often have longer environmental half lives — the continual introduction of drugs by sewage effluent may make them "pseudopersistent", with unknown consequences for aquatic organisms that may be subjected to continuous exposure.

The possible effects of the presence of drugs in aquatic systems are unknown and, consequently, in recent years they have been attracting increasing attention as potential pollutants. The fact that any commercially produced chemical may find its way into the environment is not surprising in itself; the interesting point about pharmaceutical pollution is that it does not result primarily from manufacturing but rather from widespread and continual use, excretion, and improper disposal of both human and veterinary medicines.

Pharmaceuticals are potentially ubiquitous pollutants because they could be found in any environment inhabited by man. As yet, there is little evidence that pharmaceuticals are present in the environment in sufficient quantity to cause significant harm, though their use is expected to grow with the completion of the human genome project and the rising age of the population. Pharmaceuticals and their metabolites are more and more likely to be found in the receiving waters of areas adjacent to human activity and therefore further research in this area is warranted.

<span class=postbold>Determining the extent of the problem</span>

With recent advances in analytical techniques (such as gas and liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry) detailed investigation has become possible (Ternes TA. Analytical methods for the determination of pharmaceuticals in aqueous environmental samples. Trends in Analytical Chemistry 2001;20:419-34). The data collected in studies to date, however, rarely provide information on the various processes that determine the fate of these compounds in the system under investigation; although drug substances receive considerable pharmacological and clinical testing during development, there is a severe paucity of data on the ecotoxicity of the majority of them.

A major concern so far has been that antibiotics found in effluent from sewage treatment plants may cause increased resistance among natural bacterial populations (Willis C. Antibiotics in the food chain: their impact on the consumer. Reviews in Medical Microbiology 2000;11:153-60). Many antibiotic-resistant isolates of microorganisms can be found in the environment and, although the subject remains controversial, the significant increase in the number of bacterial strains resistant to multiple antibiotics has often been attributed to the irrational use of antibiotics and the increase in discharges to wastewater. The three well-established mechanisms of gene transfer (conjugation, transduction and transformation) are all believed to occur in the aquatic environment; as a result, streams and rivers could provide a source and a reservoir of resistant genes as well as a medium for their spread. In addition, some non-target organisms (such as cyanobacteria) may be adversely affected by antibiotics, which could have an indirect, adverse effect on the aquatic food chain. In view of these concerns, guidelines for new pharmaceuticals have been introduced in the USA and a draft on the environmental risk assessment of new pharmaceuticals is proposed for the European Union. Neither of these pieces of legislation is likely to affect environmental levels of the large number of pharmaceutical products that are already licensed for use.

The problem is further complicated by the fact that exposure to only one drug or toxicant at a time is probably a rare event. Mixtures of only a few compounds have been shown to affect ecosystems in laboratory-scale studies, but what happens in the wider environment is unknown. Most organisms are continually exposed to a range of substances, with only slight temporal and spatial variations in concentration levels. Consequently, their tolerance limits will depend on the duration of exposure to chemical (and non-chemical) stressors, many of which share the same mechanism of action and whose effects may, as a result, be additive. Therefore, risk assessments that ignore the possible cumulative actions of pharmaceuticals will almost certainly lead to a significant underestimation of risk.

<span class=postbold>Care of water sources</span>

Increasing demands on the world's water sources will be likely to lead to greater incidences of indirect and direct water reuse situations in the future. Drinking-water is a direct route to the human body, including for any drug compounds or other pollutants that may be present. Advanced water treatment technologies such as granular activated carbon (GAC) and reverse osmosis (RO) treatment can remove drugs from potable water to the extent that they are no longer detectable, but these processes are not universally applied. Municipal wastewater is never treated in this way because of a lack of suitable technology and the high economic investment required. Furthermore, the large numbers of different compounds that are released and the wide range of their properties and effects mean that comprehensive, large-scale monitoring programmes to test for the compounds would be extremely expensive and time-consuming.

<span class=postbold>Proposed action</span>

As the full extent, magnitude, and ramifications of the presence of drugs in the aquatic environment are largely unknown, more research is required before a clear picture emerges of the true nature and importance of the problem. It would therefore be unwise to assert that these compounds are causing a significant environmental effect until conclusive evidence is available. To this end, the focus for the future should be on proper and sufficient science for establishing occurrence, exposure, susceptibility and effects, so that sound decisions can be made regarding human and environmental health.

When evaluating pharmaceuticals, the health benefits to humans must take precedence over any potential environmental damage. It may therefore be worthwhile to focus on reduction or elimination of problems at source, with the development of clearer labelling on medicinal products and better guidelines for the disposal of pharmaceutical compounds by patients and medical professionals. This approach would have the potential benefit of improved consumer health (by minimizing the intake of active substances) as well as reduced spending on health care. Given the enormous importance of the pharmaceutical industry both to human health and the economy, any increased controls could have significant economic and social ramifications. If pharmaceuticals do eventually prove to be problem pollutants, collaboration between the medical and environmental professions would be beneficial to both parties, since a large amount of research remains to be completed before a thorough understanding of this subject is available.

<span class=postbold>Acknowledgements</span>

One of the authors (OAHJ) is grateful to the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for the award of a PhD scholarship.

Conflicts of interest: none declared.

* Correspondence should be sent to Dr Voulvoulis at this address (email:


© 2006 World Health Organization

Avenue Appia 20
1211 Geneva 27
Tel.: +41 22 791 2476
Fax.: +41 22 791 3111 / +41 22 791 4894

<span class=postbold>See Also</span>: ... 0440a.html
User avatar
Posts: 232
Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2006 6:38 pm

Prescription Drug Pollution May Harm Humans, Aquatic Life

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:55 pm

Johns Hopkins University wrote:<table class=postcell width=100%><tr><td class=postcell>Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160 | Fax (410) 516-5251</td><td align=right> April 4, 2002
MEDIA CONTACT: Phil Sneiderman
(410) 516-7907, </td></tr></table>

<table class=posttable align=left width=300><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg src=bin/johns_hopkins_trio.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcap>The researchers studying pharmaceutical pollution at Johns Hopkins include Padma Venkatraman, a postdoctoral fellow; Lynn Roberts, associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering; and Michael Blumenfeld, an undergraduate chemistry major.</td></tr></table>Prescription Drug Pollution May Harm Humans, Aquatic Life

Engineers Develop Tools to Track Pharmaceuticals
Originating in Human Waste

The millions of doses of prescription drugs that Americans swallow annually to combat cancer, pain, depression and other ailments do not disappear harmlessly into their digestive systems, researchers have determined, but instead make their way back into the environment where they may contaminate drinking water and pose a threat to aquatic wildlife.

With this in mind, environmental engineers at The Johns Hopkins University have launched an ambitious research program aimed at identifying the scope of the nation's prescription drug pollution problems. The researchers recently received a three-year $525,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to study pharmaceuticals and antiseptics in drinking water, sewage treatment plants and coastal waters. During an April 10 session at the 223rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Orlando, Fla., members of the Johns Hopkins team will unveil two new scientific tools to aid in the investigation of prescription drug pollution. One is a survey of the estimated environmental concentration of the 200 drugs that are prescribed and sold most often. The other is a new, highly sensitive lab test that can detect a minute amount of several prescription drugs in water samples.

<table class=posttable width=158 align=right><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg width=158 src=bin/johns_hopkins_lynn.jpg title="Lynn Roberts"></td></tr></table>Being able to track these drugs is important because many prescription medicines consumed by Americans are not rendered biologically harmless when they pass through the body, Johns Hopkins researchers say. Conventional sewage treatment systems may not remove them, and unused drugs may be flushed down the toilet or thrown into the trash, ultimately ending up in groundwater or surface water, where they may affect aquatic life and drinking water quality.

<table class=posttable width=158 align=left><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg width=158 src=bin/johns_hopkins_padma.jpg title="Padma Venkatraman"></td></tr></table>"This is an important new research area," says A. Lynn Roberts (pictured at right), who heads the Johns Hopkins team. "Over the past few years, scientists in Europe have found pharmaceuticals in natural waterways, sewage treatment effluents and even in drinking water. Yet until this year there have been virtually no scientific studies examining this issue in the United States. It's important that we begin to look at this because there are many ways in which pharmaceuticals in the environment could produce undesirable effects on aquatic organisms or even humans." As an example, Roberts, an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, pointed out that popular antidepressants work by altering levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin. But serotonin also causes many aquatic creatures to spawn. As a result, pharmaceuticals in the wild could upset natural breeding cycles. In humans, pregnant women are warned not to consume medications that could harm their developing fetus. But what if small amounts of these drugs are present in drinking water? "Pharmaceuticals have high biological activity," Roberts says. "We may be able to tolerate them for a short period of time, but that doesn't mean they won't hurt us -- or developing fetuses or aquatic organisms -- at higher concentrations or over a long period of time."

<table class=posttable align=right width=158><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg width=158 src=bin/johns_hopkins_mike.jpg title="Michael L. Blumenfeld"></td></tr></table>At the American Chemical Society meeting, two members of Roberts' team will make public some early steps in the effort to determine which pharmaceuticals are escaping into the environment and how much is present. Padma Venkatraman (pictured at left), a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins, will present estimates of probable environmental concentrations of the 200 most frequently sold and prescribed drugs. She has concluded that anti-depressants, anti-convulsants, anti-cancer drugs and anti-microbials are among the pharmaceuticals most likely to be found at "toxicologically significant levels" in the environment. "We're trying to make an intelligent guess as to what's out there in the environment and what's probably toxic," Venkatraman says. "We certainly don't have any evidence that most pharmaceuticals pose a human health risk."

<table class=posttable width=300 align=left><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg width=300 src=bin/johns_hopkins_chromatograph.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcap>Undergraduate Michael Blumenfeld and Prof. Lynn Roberts use a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer to measure extremely small amounts of pharmaceuticals in water samples.</td></tr></table>Also at the meeting, Michael L. Blumenfeld (pictured at right), a 22-year-old Johns Hopkins undergraduate from Timonium, Md., will present a new method of detecting tiny amounts of several drugs in natural waters, using a lab technique called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The test is so sensitive it can detect a gram of pharmaceutical in more than 1 billion liters of water. Blumenfeld's test, developed in collaboration with Roberts and Venkatraman, will allow researchers in academic labs to test for the presence of particular drugs that may pose a problem in the environment. Blumenfeld, a senior majoring in chemistry, received financial support through a Johns Hopkins Provost's Undergraduate Research Award.

As the project continues, Johns Hopkins researchers plan to test water before and after it emerges from drinking water treatment plants to determine how effectively pharmaceuticals are being removed. Team members will also conduct tests to see how well pharmaceuticals are being removed at sewage treatment plants in Massachusetts and Maryland. They will also collect samples in the environmentally sensitive upper Chesapeake Bay to check for the presence and concentration of drugs and antiseptics. The researchers will try to determine how efficiently nature's self-cleansing processes eliminate these man-made pollutants.

Last edited by palmspringsbum on Sun Aug 13, 2006 5:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 2769
Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2006 6:38 pm
Location: Santa Cruz, California

Doctors fear drug pollution poses risk to fish, people

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Jul 10, 2006 7:44 pm

The Chicago Sun-Times wrote:Doctors fear drug pollution poses risk to fish, people

June 12, 2006
The Chicago Sun-Times
BY JIM RITTER Health Reporter

Doctors are drawing attention to an emerging environmental worry -- pollution of lakes and rivers by drugs flushed down toilets.

A Baylor University study found trace amounts of Prozac in fish downstream from a sewage treatment plant in Texas. And the U.S. Geological Survey found pharmaceuticals and other organic chemicals in 80 percent of 139 streams sampled in 30 states.

The American Medical Association, now meeting in Chicago, is considering resolutions calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct comprehensive studies on the topic.

"It's a huge, huge issue for us in the future," said AMA delegate Dr. Gail Baldwin of Duluth, Minn.

<span class=postbold>Nation's medication use grows</span>

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs end up in waterways after patients excrete them or flush unused pills down the toilet. Sewage plants are designed for industrial pollutants. They're not equipped to remove chemicals from drugs and personal care products such as cosmetics, perfumes and sunscreens.

The problem isn't new. But it's been getting more attention the past few years because of the nation's growing medication use.

Moreover, increasingly sophisticated test labs now can detect chemical concentrations as small as one part per trillion.

<span class=postbold>No major EPA studies</span>

While minute amounts of drugs are showing up in drinking water supplies, the major concern is the potential damage to fish and other aquatic life. Among the possible effects, according to the EPA:
<li>Sex steroids from drugs such as birth control pills might cause male fish to develop female traits and change behaviors in both sexes.</li>

<li>Dumping human and livestock antibiotics into the environment could hasten bacteria developing resistance to antibiotic drugs.</li>

<li>The class of anti-depressants that includes Prozac and Zoloft might have major effects on shellfish spawning and other behaviors.</li>
Most of the research so far has been done in Europe. The U.S. EPA has gathered information but has done no major studies. A federal task force is trying to figure out how to study the complex issue, said EPA spokesman Dale Kemery.

"Regulations are not on the horizon at this point," Kemery added.

People typically discard pills when the drugs last beyond expiration dates, cause unacceptable side effects or don't work.

Patients can safely discard unwanted pills at key hospitals, senior centers and police stations. For locations, call 311 (Chicago) or (773) 869-7724 (suburban Cook County).

Last edited by palmspringsbum on Sun Aug 06, 2006 4:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 2769
Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2006 6:38 pm
Location: Santa Cruz, California

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Jul 10, 2006 7:52 pm

Macleans wrote:July 4, 2006 - 17:46

Environment Canada study finds caffeine, prescription drugs in St. Lawrence

MONTREAL (CP) - Environment Canada researchers have found a dozen different types of toxic drugs and even caffeine in water samples taken from the St. Lawrence River in Quebec.

Although the amounts were minuscule, the study raises many questions about the long-term effects of pharmacological pollution in the country's waterways. "At this point we have detected toxic substances but we don't know what the real toxic effects are," Andre Lajeunesse, one of several researchers involved in the study, said Tuesday.

The study found drugs ranging from caffeine and over-the-counter ibuprofen to the prescription antibiotic oxytetracycline and carbamazepine, prescribed to treat epilepsy and Alzheimer's.

The drugs were found in concentrations less than 10 micrograms per litre after sewage treatment - "trace amounts," said researchers.

The human body disposes of excess medication through urine but current sewage treatment methods were not built to deal with those kind of contaminants, Lajeunesse explained.

Although the study dealt specifically with the St. Lawrence, drug pollution in waterways is widespread, said Francois Gagne, who authored along with two other researchers the study published earlier this year in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.

"When you're near a city, you're going to see it," Gagne said.

Drugs, birth control hormones, Prozac and perfume have all turned up in similar studies in the United Kingdom and the United States in recent years.

U.S. and European studies have also found antibiotics, anti-depressants, veterinary drugs and hormones in tap water.

Previous research from Chesapeake Bay to the Thames River has blamed pharmacological and chemical pollution for the feminization of wild male fish.

Testing has begun on fish, sediment and micro-organisms in the St. Lawrence to try and determine the effects of the pollution, such as:

Do the drugs accumulate in the small life forms and fish that call the river home?

Is drinking water contaminated downstream?

Could currently harmless water borne bacteria build up antibiotic resistance and become harmful?

The drug contamination is unsettling, said Isabelle Saulnier, supervisor of the State of the St. Lawrence monitoring program for Environment Canada, but the condition of the historic riverway has improved greatly.

Mercury, PCB and metal contamination has decreased, she said.

"We know that the St. Lawrence is doing much better than it has been for the past 30 years," Saulnier said.

Improved technology means researchers can now distinguish between the different types of pollution in the river.

Twenty years ago studies revealed alarming levels of PCBs in water, she said, and in ensuing years much has been done.

A decade ago scientists worried about pesticide pollution and today, she said, controls have been put in place and pesticide levels have dropped.

The Sierra Club of Canada would like pharmaceutical companies to take the lead in fine-tuning their products and eliminating the drug pollution at the source.

"Of course, you want the pharmaceutical to work. . . but you don't want it to contaminate the fish that you eat," said Sierra spokesman Daniel Green.

There could also be a risk to humans who swim in contaminated waters, eat fish from them or take drinking water downstream, he said.

Authorities say a drinking water treatment plant for Quebec City, downstream from Montreal on the St. Lawrence is among 40 in Quebec that treat water for such pollutants.

Green said it's not enough.

"There is a very high level of human exposure and at the end of the day we do not know what these chemicals will do."

User avatar
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 2769
Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2006 6:38 pm
Location: Santa Cruz, California

Microbes in Manure Can Minimize Potential Pharmaceutical Pol

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Jul 10, 2006 8:11 pm

United States Department of Agriculture wrote:Microbes in Manure Can Minimize Potential Pharmaceutical Pollution

United States Department of Agriculture
By Erin Peabody
January 27, 2006

<table class=posttable width=252 align=left><tr><td class=postcell><img width=252 src=bin/cow-in-field.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcap>ARS researchers have found that the microbes in manure can play an important role in breaking down antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals excreted by treated livestock. </td></tr></table>Bacteria are usually viewed as “the enemy” and targeted with potent antibiotics to curb their ability to cause infection. But according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists, microbes--including several types of bacteria--can be a farmer’s ally when it comes to reducing the risk that antibiotic-containing manure may pose to the environment.

Livestock and poultry producers rely on antibiotics to treat a host of diseases and infections. In fact, more than 21 million pounds of antibiotics were administered to U.S. farm animals and pets in 2004. Such treatments help promote animals’ health and well-being, in addition to ensuring a safe food supply for consumers.

The trouble is, when animals excrete in their waste antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals that their bodies don’t use, the compounds may linger in the environment. This so-called pharmaceutical pollution can encourage bacteria to mutate and form strains that are resistant to current antibiotics.

Scott Yates, a soil scientist with ARS’ George E. Brown, Jr. Salinity Laboratory in Riverside, Calif., wanted to find out what happens to antibiotic-laced manure once it’s mixed with soil, as typically happens when livestock manure is spread onto farm fields as a fertilizer.

Yates and colleague Qiquan Wang studied one commonly administered veterinary antibiotic, sulfadimethoxine, which is used to combat a number of diseases in livestock and pets.

They developed a mathematical model which revealed that thriving manure microbes play an important role in determining how quickly sulfadimethoxine degrades. Some microbes in manure can digest and inactivate the excreted antibiotic.

According to Yates and Wang, farmers should try to create a hospitable environment for these tiny helpers. They should store waste from treated animals in a warm, moist place for as long as possible before spreading it onto fields. This gives the beneficial soil microbes an opportunity to act on an antibiotic, before it has the chance to leach into soils and waterways.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.

<hr class=postrule>
Because much of the cost of a cow is the feed and labor needed to maintain her, fewer but higher yielding cows mean lower priced milk. Dairy herd improvement ultimately benefits consumers.

That's why it's just as important to keep complete and accurate records as it is to keep the cows contented. The National Cooperative Dairy Herd Improvement Program has been tracking Bossy's milk yields since 1905.

Over the years, this program has made enormous contributions to dairy cattle breeding. ARS scientists receive the lactation records of all herds enrolled in the program and use the figures to rank the bulls that sire the nation's dairy cows and to rank the cows themselves.

The results of years and years of scientific dairying? Milk production has been trending upward for more than 25 years in the United States-from about 117,000 million pounds in 1970 to more than 150,000 million pounds in 1994-even though the number of milk cows has been reduced.

In other words, "Eat shit and die". :wallbash:
User avatar
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 2769
Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2006 6:38 pm
Location: Santa Cruz, California

More Accurate Estimates Of Community-Wide Illicit Drug Use

Postby palmspringsbum » Tue Dec 12, 2006 5:48 pm

Medical News Today wrote:
More Accurate Estimates Of Community-Wide Illicit Drug Use

Medical News Today

08 Dec 2006

Scientists in Italy are reporting development of a method for more accurate estimates of the amount of illicit drug use in a community. Sara Castiglioni and colleagues note that current estimates of community-wide illicit drug use are based on indirect methods - such as population surveys, crime statistics and interviews - that tend to be unreliable.

In a report scheduled for the Dec. 15 issue of ACS's Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal, they describe the first application of an analytical technique that directly determines the amounts of a wide variety of illicit drugs in wastewater collected at sewage treatment plants. Termed high pressure liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, the tool can detect amphetamines, cocaine, THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) and other drugs.

The test identifies drugs and drug byproducts that illicit drug users excrete in their urine. Those compounds pass through sewage treatment plants and may appear in rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. In addition to making better estimates of population-wide drug use, the technique also could provide a way to monitor drug use and changing patterns of drug use in real time, the researchers state. They previously developed a similar test for cocaine, and used it to suggest that cocaine use was more prevalent than once believed.


"Identification and Measurement of Illicit Drugs and Their Metabolites in Urban Wastewater by Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry"

Sara Castiglioni, Ph.D.
Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, Milan, Italy


ACS News Service Weekly PressPac -- Nov. 29, 2006

The American Chemical Society - the world's largest scientific society - is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Contact: Michael Woods
American Chemical Society

User avatar
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 2769
Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2006 6:38 pm
Location: Santa Cruz, California

AP Probe Finds Drugs in Drinking Water

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Mar 10, 2008 5:48 pm

The Associated Press wrote:
AP Probe Finds Drugs in Drinking Water

March 9, 2008

A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky.

Water providers rarely disclose results of pharmaceutical screenings, unless pressed, the AP found. For example, the head of a group representing major California suppliers said the public "doesn't know how to interpret the information" and might be unduly alarmed.

How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies — which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public — have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.

"We recognize it is a growing concern and we're taking it very seriously," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Members of the AP National Investigative Team reviewed hundreds of scientific reports, analyzed federal drinking water databases, visited environmental study sites and treatment plants and interviewed more than 230 officials, academics and scientists. They also surveyed the nation's 50 largest cities and a dozen other major water providers, as well as smaller community water providers in all 50 states.

Here are some of the key test results obtained by the AP:

_Officials in Philadelphia said testing there discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in treated drinking water, including medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. Sixty-three pharmaceuticals or byproducts were found in the city's watersheds.

_Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications were detected in a portion of the treated drinking water for 18.5 million people in Southern California.

_Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed a Passaic Valley Water Commission drinking water treatment plant, which serves 850,000 people in Northern New Jersey, and found a metabolized angina medicine and the mood-stabilizing carbamazepine in drinking water.

_A sex hormone was detected in San Francisco's drinking water.

_The drinking water for Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas tested positive for six pharmaceuticals.

_Three medications, including an antibiotic, were found in drinking water supplied to Tucson, Ariz.

The situation is undoubtedly worse than suggested by the positive test results in the major population centers documented by the AP.

The federal government doesn't require any testing and hasn't set safety limits for drugs in water. Of the 62 major water providers contacted, the drinking water for only 28 was tested. Among the 34 that haven't: Houston, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, Phoenix, Boston and New York City's Department of Environmental Protection, which delivers water to 9 million people.

Some providers screen only for one or two pharmaceuticals, leaving open the possibility that others are present.

The AP's investigation also indicates that watersheds, the natural sources of most of the nation's water supply, also are contaminated. Tests were conducted in the watersheds of 35 of the 62 major providers surveyed by the AP, and pharmaceuticals were detected in 28.

Yet officials in six of those 28 metropolitan areas said they did not go on to test their drinking water — Fairfax, Va.; Montgomery County in Maryland; Omaha, Neb.; Oklahoma City; Santa Clara, Calif., and New York City.

The New York state health department and the USGS tested the source of the city's water, upstate. They found trace concentrations of heart medicine, infection fighters, estrogen, anti-convulsants, a mood stabilizer and a tranquilizer.

City water officials declined repeated requests for an interview. In a statement, they insisted that "New York City's drinking water continues to meet all federal and state regulations regarding drinking water quality in the watershed and the distribution system" — regulations that do not address trace pharmaceuticals.

In several cases, officials at municipal or regional water providers told the AP that pharmaceuticals had not been detected, but the AP obtained the results of tests conducted by independent researchers that showed otherwise. For example, water department officials in New Orleans said their water had not been tested for pharmaceuticals, but a Tulane University researcher and his students have published a study that found the pain reliever naproxen, the sex hormone estrone and the anti-cholesterol drug byproduct clofibric acid in treated drinking water.

Of the 28 major metropolitan areas where tests were performed on drinking water supplies, only Albuquerque; Austin, Texas; and Virginia Beach, Va.; said tests were negative. The drinking water in Dallas has been tested, but officials are awaiting results. Arlington, Texas, acknowledged that traces of a pharmaceutical were detected in its drinking water but cited post-9/11 security concerns in refusing to identify the drug.

The AP also contacted 52 small water providers — one in each state, and two each in Missouri and Texas — that serve communities with populations around 25,000. All but one said their drinking water had not been screened for pharmaceuticals; officials in Emporia, Kan., refused to answer AP's questions, also citing post-9/11 issues.

Rural consumers who draw water from their own wells aren't in the clear either, experts say.

The Stroud Water Research Center, in Avondale, Pa., has measured water samples from New York City's upstate watershed for caffeine, a common contaminant that scientists often look for as a possible signal for the presence of other pharmaceuticals. Though more caffeine was detected at suburban sites, researcher Anthony Aufdenkampe was struck by the relatively high levels even in less populated areas.

He suspects it escapes from failed septic tanks, maybe with other drugs. "Septic systems are essentially small treatment plants that are essentially unmanaged and therefore tend to fail," Aufdenkampe said.

Even users of bottled water and home filtration systems don't necessarily avoid exposure. Bottlers, some of which simply repackage tap water, do not typically treat or test for pharmaceuticals, according to the industry's main trade group. The same goes for the makers of home filtration systems.

Contamination is not confined to the United States. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. Studies have detected pharmaceuticals in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe — even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea.

For example, in Canada, a study of 20 Ontario drinking water treatment plants by a national research institute found nine different drugs in water samples. Japanese health officials in December called for human health impact studies after detecting prescription drugs in drinking water at seven different sites.

In the United States, the problem isn't confined to surface waters. Pharmaceuticals also permeate aquifers deep underground, source of 40 percent of the nation's water supply. Federal scientists who drew water in 24 states from aquifers near contaminant sources such as landfills and animal feed lots found minuscule levels of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs.

Perhaps it's because Americans have been taking drugs — and flushing them unmetabolized or unused — in growing amounts. Over the past five years, the number of U.S. prescriptions rose 12 percent to a record 3.7 billion, while nonprescription drug purchases held steady around 3.3 billion, according to IMS Health and The Nielsen Co.

"People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that's not the case," said EPA scientist Christian Daughton, one of the first to draw attention to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water in the United States.

Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.

Another issue: There's evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

Human waste isn't the only source of contamination. Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals.

Water sampled downstream of a Nebraska feedlot had steroid levels four times as high as the water taken upstream. Male fathead minnows living in that downstream area had low testosterone levels and small heads.

Other veterinary drugs also play a role. Pets are now treated for arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and even obesity — sometimes with the same drugs as humans. The inflation-adjusted value of veterinary drugs rose by 8 percent, to $5.2 billion, over the past five years, according to an analysis of data from the Animal Health Institute.

Ask the pharmaceutical industry whether the contamination of water supplies is a problem, and officials will tell you no. "Based on what we now know, I would say we find there's little or no risk from pharmaceuticals in the environment to human health," said microbiologist Thomas White, a consultant for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

But at a conference last summer, Mary Buzby — director of environmental technology for drug maker Merck & Co. Inc. — said: "There's no doubt about it, pharmaceuticals are being detected in the environment and there is genuine concern that these compounds, in the small concentrations that they're at, could be causing impacts to human health or to aquatic organisms."

Recent laboratory research has found that small amounts of medication have affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. The cancer cells proliferated too quickly; the kidney cells grew too slowly; and the blood cells showed biological activity associated with inflammation.

Also, pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females. Pharmaceuticals also are affecting sentinel species at the foundation of the pyramid of life — such as earth worms in the wild and zooplankton in the laboratory, studies show.

Some scientists stress that the research is extremely limited, and there are too many unknowns. They say, though, that the documented health problems in wildlife are disconcerting.

"It brings a question to people's minds that if the fish were affected ... might there be a potential problem for humans?" EPA research biologist Vickie Wilson told the AP. "It could be that the fish are just exquisitely sensitive because of their physiology or something. We haven't gotten far enough along."

With limited research funds, said Shane Snyder, research and development project manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority, a greater emphasis should be put on studying the effects of drugs in water.

"I think it's a shame that so much money is going into monitoring to figure out if these things are out there, and so little is being spent on human health," said Snyder. "They need to just accept that these things are everywhere — every chemical and pharmaceutical could be there. It's time for the EPA to step up to the plate and make a statement about the need to study effects, both human and environmental."

To the degree that the EPA is focused on the issue, it appears to be looking at detection. Grumbles acknowledged that just late last year the agency developed three new methods to "detect and quantify pharmaceuticals" in wastewater. "We realize that we have a limited amount of data on the concentrations," he said. "We're going to be able to learn a lot more."

While Grumbles said the EPA had analyzed 287 pharmaceuticals for possible inclusion on a draft list of candidates for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, he said only one, nitroglycerin, was on the list. Nitroglycerin can be used as a drug for heart problems, but the key reason it's being considered is its widespread use in making explosives.

So much is unknown. Many independent scientists are skeptical that trace concentrations will ultimately prove to be harmful to humans. Confidence about human safety is based largely on studies that poison lab animals with much higher amounts.

There's growing concern in the scientific community, meanwhile, that certain drugs — or combinations of drugs — may harm humans over decades because water, unlike most specific foods, is consumed in sizable amounts every day.

Our bodies may shrug off a relatively big one-time dose, yet suffer from a smaller amount delivered continuously over a half century, perhaps subtly stirring allergies or nerve damage. Pregnant women, the elderly and the very ill might be more sensitive.

Many concerns about chronic low-level exposure focus on certain drug classes: chemotherapy that can act as a powerful poison; hormones that can hamper reproduction or development; medicines for depression and epilepsy that can damage the brain or change behavior; antibiotics that can allow human germs to mutate into more dangerous forms; pain relievers and blood-pressure diuretics.

For several decades, federal environmental officials and nonprofit watchdog environmental groups have focused on regulated contaminants — pesticides, lead, PCBs — which are present in higher concentrations and clearly pose a health risk.

However, some experts say medications may pose a unique danger because, unlike most pollutants, they were crafted to act on the human body.

"These are chemicals that are designed to have very specific effects at very low concentrations. That's what pharmaceuticals do. So when they get out to the environment, it should not be a shock to people that they have effects," says zoologist John Sumpter at Brunel University in London, who has studied trace hormones, heart medicine and other drugs.

And while drugs are tested to be safe for humans, the timeframe is usually over a matter of months, not a lifetime. Pharmaceuticals also can produce side effects and interact with other drugs at normal medical doses. That's why — aside from therapeutic doses of fluoride injected into potable water supplies — pharmaceuticals are prescribed to people who need them, not delivered to everyone in their drinking water.

"We know we are being exposed to other people's drugs through our drinking water, and that can't be good," says Dr. David Carpenter, who directs the Institute for Health and the Environment of the State University of New York at Albany.

The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at investigate (at)

...Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

In other words: they <span class=postbold>persist</span> in the environment, and therefore <span class=postbold>accumulate</span> up the food chain.

One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.

In other words: cleaning the water is economically unfeasable by any method we currently have available. The economics dictate that each new clean glass of water will cost more than the previous one, and it doesn't remove the pollution from the environment. Any of it.

Another issue: There's evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic...

"It brings a question to people's minds that if the fish were affected ... might there be a potential problem for humans?" EPA research biologist Vickie Wilson told the AP. "It could be that the fish are just exquisitely sensitive because of their physiology or something. We haven't gotten far enough along."

When you get 'far enough along' I hypothesize you will discover higher concentrations up the food chain and that fish are actually not very 'sensitive' at all, compared to the human beings who eat them.
User avatar
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 2769
Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2006 6:38 pm
Location: Santa Cruz, California

Return to polls & studies

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests