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Pharmaceuticals Need to get into the Green

March 11, 2021

Pharmaceuticals Need to get into the Green

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that nearly 60 percent of Americans are taking prescription drugs, and those drugs impact the environment by entering the water through disposal and bodily waste.

The amount of drugs that our bodies break down varies. According to environmental chemists from the Environmental Protection Agency, up to 90 percent of some drugs is metabolized. Others aren’t metabolized as much and either leave the body as waste or sweat. They may be flushed down toilets or go down shower drains.

The good news is that pharmaceuticals are well-removed by water treatment plants, and the levels aren’t high enough to harm humans.

But what about the environment?

A researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison performed a number of tests on zooplankton. She put them in the water with a cholesterol-lowering drug, and five common antibiotics, one drug at a time. The zooplankton ended up having more offspring and lived longer.

But when exposed to a mixture of antidepressant and cholesterol drugs, she found that 90 percent of the plankton died. When they did have offspring, they were deformed. The cholesterol drug didn’t really have much of an impact on its own, but when mixed with just one other drug, results were not good.

Another example comes from the late 1990s. Three species of white vultures were dying off in large numbers in South Asia. Researchers did a study in Pakistan and discovered that the cause was an anti-inflammatory drug, which was given to cattle to reduce fevers. The researchers believe that the vultures ate from carcasses of cattle that had been given the drugs, which caused kidney failure in the birds.

Going green

According to the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale University, pharmaceutical companies should use “green” chemical techniques to design drugs that biodegrade quickly in the environment.

Nobody purposely designs a drug to be toxic in humans or the environment. There just needs to be an awareness of what’s happening and what is possible, they say.

LB Medwaste can plan for your pharmaceutical waste disposal needs. Call 888-526-3392 for more information on these cost-effective services.

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