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Environmental Risks of Pharmaceuticals in Fresh Water

freshwater damage

According to a recent article in Science Daily, concentrations of pharmaceuticals have increased in freshwater sources worldwide in the last twenty years.

Environmental experts looked specifically at the levels of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin and the anti-epileptic medication, carbamazepine. The researchers are concerned that the levels of ciprofloxacin have reached a point of being ecologically damaging. Other studies have also indicated that carbamazepine has negative impacts on ecosystem functioning.  

The authors say that obtaining an accurate idea of the exact global environmental risks is difficult because they are working with very limited data. However, the study showed that for the two drugs investigated, environmental risk has increased by between ten and twenty times between 1995 and 2015.

For ciprofloxacin in particular, human use has increased significantly. The increased environmental concentrations are now such that they have become harmful to freshwater bacteria. These are bacteria that have an important role in a variety of nutrient cycles. High concentrations of antibiotics also damage the efficiency of bacteria colonies that are helpful in treating wastewater and sewage. The study predicts a high environmental risk where there are densely populated areas, for example in the Middle East. There is a need for more data from areas such as this. This study serves as a wake-up call to the environmental risks created by biohazard waste in freshwater worldwide.