The Effects of Pharmaceutical Pollution on Water Quality

A new study suggests that more research is needed in order to find the complete impacts pharmaceutical pollution has on aquatic life and water quality.

In a new study, researchers focused on six common pharmaceuticals (caffeine, ciprofloxacin, metformin, an antihistamine for allergies, and two antihistamines for heartburn) influenced streams in Indiana, Maryland, and New York. Each pharmaceutical was investigated alone and in combinations by using pharmaceutical-diffusing substrates in order to find some of the effects they caused in the springs.

Dr. Emma Rosi-Marshall, the lead author of the study and a scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, said, “Pharmaceutical pollution is now detected in waters throughout the world. Causes include aging infrastructure, sewage overflows, and agricultural runoff. Even when waste water makes it to sewage treatment facilities, they aren't equipped to remove pharmaceuticals. As a result, our streams and rivers are exposed to a cocktail of synthetic compounds, from stimulants and antibiotics to analgesics and antihistamines."

The results show that the antihistamines are disturbing the ecology of sensitive biofilm communities in these streams. The other pharmaceuticals, both alone and in combinations, effected the biofilm respiration. The study says more research is needed in order to better understand how the drug mixtures most water bodies experience fully impact the freshwater systems.

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