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Re: E-M:/ pharmaceuticals in the environment

Enviro-Mich message from "John Riley" <rileyj2@michigan.gov>

One sentence in the article below attempts to explain the presence of pharmaceuticals in surface waters: 

"Many of these medications pass through the body, into 
the sewer system and out to the environment largely unaltered."

While this is true, it is also very true that many people simply flush unused and expired prescription medications down the commode. The estimated volume of this type of disposal is astounding. Since most treatment processes are unable to remove those constituents, the unaltered pharmaceuticals wind up in surface waters. 

Some countries in Europe (Sweden for one) have developed a deposit system with their pharmacies to reduce this problem. Take your unused drugs back to the pharmacist and receive a nominal refund. Eventually, the majority of those drugs are incinerated. 

This would be an interesting step for the legislature to consider...


>>> Tracey Easthope <tracey@ecocenter.org> 06/01/05 1:01 PM >>>
Original URL: 

WARNING: Side effects can be severe

Common drugs are seeping into our lakes, fish and water supply


Posted: May 28, 2005

First of two parts

It was barely a drop, but the effect of the drug was astonishing.

Pointing to a digital recording of fathead minnows gasping for breath 
in a milky, murky stew, researcher Rebecca Klaper said: "We had 
planned to keep them in there for a week, but we had to pull them the 
next day. They were going to die."

Male fathead minnows, native to Lake Michigan, swim in a control tank 
at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Great Lakes WATER 
Institute. Researchers are studying the effects of common drugs on 
aquatic life.

Researcher Rebecca Klaper examines a beaker filled with daphnia to 
learn more about the effects of pharmaceuticals on aquatic life.

Primary Concerns Researchers say two primary concerns exist when it 
comes to these drugs. First, the drugs going into the water might 
affect the environment, particularly the biological food chain. 
Second, the drugs could come back to people in drinking water.

Klaper, of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Great Lakes WATER 
Institute, is investigating the effects of common drugs, such as pain 
relievers, anti-depressants and lipid regulators, on lake fish and 
invertebrates. Many of these medications pass through the body, into 
the sewer system and out to the environment largely unaltered. And 
because they are designed to affect the biology of a living organism 
- to reduce headaches, control seizures or suppress coughs - she and 
other researchers think they could have an impact on fish and other 

Standing in her lab at the WATER Institute, an old tile warehouse on 
the banks of the Kinnickinnic River, Klaper reviewed the minnow 
experiment. She pointed to the fishes' gills, which were straining 
open and shut in a desperate attempt to filter oxygen in the deadly 
murk surrounding them.

"The water was cloudy by the time we got in the next morning," said 
Chris Rees, a research assistant, recalling the day after a lipid 
regulator was introduced into their tank.

But the milkiness wasn't from the drug itself, Klaper said. It was 
the physical manifestation of the stressed and dying fish - a cloudy 
stew of mucous and other piscine secretions.


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