Pharmaceuticals heavier on drinking water than fertilizers

Stumbled across an article in a paper today that really struck me as hardly believable at first, but it becomes more and more plausible the more you think about it.

In Germany alone, pharmaceuticals worth 33.9 billion Euros are sold to patients every year. Conservative estimates assume that ten percent of them are not actually used (less conservative estimates go far higher.) That means at least 3.39 billion Euros are wasted every year. In addition to the damage that inflicts on health insurances, this turns out to have become a major source of drinking water contamination. According to a survey the Start project performed, in Germany, 43.4 % of all patients “occasionally” flush liquid pharmaceuticals down the lavatory. For 20 % this is the usual means of disposal. For tablets the toilet is used less frequently, but still 13 % admit to use it occasionally. In the light of those numbers reflecting only what people admit to do, you can probably up each of those numbers a little. Add to that the fact that even of the drugs actually taken active agents are often excreted unchanged and the fact that those numbers don’t include veterinarian pharmaceuticals.

By now, it should no longer come as a surprise that pharmaceuticals can be found in both surface and ground water. If you believe a study done by the IWW, it is 36 of 92 pharmaceuticals found in drinking water that should urge for closer inspection. The article I came across quotes geoecologist Silke Hickmann of the Umweltbundesamt who claims the effects of the contamination of drinking water through pharmaceuticals is more dramatic today than that through fertilizers. Obviously the active agents, once in the water, don’t stay there. They can be found in both in animals and plants. The effects, though they have not been properly researched yet, can be found in an abundance of examples. One that is particularly plausible to me (as my wife suffers from rheumatism and we know the complete array of NSAIDs and their side-effects very well) is that trouts have been found with damaged kidneys and a weakened immune system due to their exposure to diclofenac in surface water.

Though some of the references link to pages in German, the problem is not limited to Germany. Read on here for information focussing on the topic for the U. S..

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