Quantcast

Drug Waste Flushed Into World's Freshwater Ecosystems to Rise 65% by 2050

Popular

It's no surprise that chemicals can get flushed into our water supply from the pills we take. But as the world's population grows, the rampant consumption of pharmaceuticals has become an emerging threat to the world's freshwater ecosystems, researchers said.

The research, presented at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly on Tuesday, warns that if no action is taken to mitigate the flow, the amount of drug waste entering waterways such as rivers and lakes could increase by 65 percent by 2050, endangering fish and other species' health.


Francesco Bregoli, a postdoctoral researcher at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands, and his international co-hort developed a model showing global "hotspots" of water with high concentrations of pharmaceuticals.

To do this, the researchers analyzed the global consumption of diclofenac, a common painkiller used by millions across the globe, and its occurrence in freshwaters.

Francesco Bregoli et al.

Diclofenac has been identified as an environmental threat by the European Union and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Its use as a livestock drug has been linked to the collapse of vulture populations in South Asia. Scientists have also observed the anti-inflammatory drug bioaccumulating in fish in the Great Lakes, but its impact is unclear.

According to the AFP's report on the new study, more than 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) of rivers around the world have concentrations of diclofenac above the EU "watch list" limit of 100 nanograms a liter.

In the U.S., only half of the prescription drugs in sewage are removed by treatment plants. Contamination levels are higher in Latin American, African and Asian countries, where wastewater is not widely treated and filtering drugs can be technologically unavailable or expensive.

Francesco Bregoli et al.

The research team's model can also be applied to the presence and spread of other drugs besides diclofenac.

"Diclofenac emissions are similar to any of thousands of pharmaceuticals and personal care products," Bregoli explained.

The scientists suggested feasible mitigation strategies on consumption reduction, sewer connection and improvements of water treatment technology. However, Bregoli noted that improved water treatment will not be enough to solve the growing problem.

"We found out that technological improvements alone will not even be enough to recover from the current concentration levels," he said. "If a substantial consumption reduction is not implemented, a large part of the global river ecosystems will not be sufficiently secured."

Related Articles Around the Web

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Logging state in the U.S. is seen representing some of the consequences humans will face in the absence of concrete action to stop deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis. Mark Newman / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

Talk is cheap, says the acting executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, who begged governments around the world to make sure that 2020 is not another year of conferences and empty promises, but instead is the year to take decisive action to stop the mass extinction of wildlife and the destruction of habitat-sustaining ecosystems, as The Guardian reported.

Read More
The people of Kiribati have been under pressure to relocate due to sea level rise. A young woman wades through the salty sea water that flooded her way home on Sept. 29, 2015. Jonas Gratzer / LightRocket via Getty Images

Refugees fleeing the impending effects of the climate crisis cannot be forced to return home, according to a new decision by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, as CNN reported. The new decision could open up a massive wave of legal claims by displaced people around the world.

Read More
Sponsored
The first day of the Strike WEF march on Davos on Jan. 18, 2020 near Davos, Switzerland. The activists want climate justice and think the WEF is for the world's richest and political elite only. Kristian Buus / In Pictures via Getty Images

By Ashutosh Pandey

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is returning to the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the 2020 World Economic Forum with a strong and clear message: put an end to the fossil fuel "madness."

Read More
Protesters attend a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court held by the group Our Children's Trust Oct. 29, 2018 in Washington, DC. The group and the plaintiffs have vowed to keep fighting and to ask the full Ninth Circuit to review Friday's decision to toss the lawsuit. Win McNamee / Getty Images

An appeals court tossed out the landmark youth climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States Friday, arguing that the courts are not the place to resolve the climate crisis.

Read More
The land around Red Knoll near Kanab, UT that could have been razed for a frac sand mine. Tara Lohan

By Tara Lohan

A sign at the north end of Kanab, Utah, proclaims the town of 4,300 to be "The Greatest Earth on Show."

Read More