Pollution of waterways with pharmaceuticals makes antibiotics less effective and issue may cause the “next pandemic,” co-author warns
A remarkable global survey found that more than half of 285 rivers had levels of pollution. “active pharmaceutical ingredients”It is unsafe for aquatic animals. The contamination is also dangerous to humans, according to researchers.
The pollution of the world’s rivers with drugs poses “a threat to environmental and human health,”The authors of this paper warn. It was published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.
Water samples were taken from over a thousand locations across 104 countries and tested for active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). This is the largest study to date on this issue. They were collected by 127 researchers representing 86 institutions.
It was found that 258 rivers were in danger of containing dangerous levels of prescriptions.
After being consumed by livestock or people, drugs can get into water and either go into the sewage system or directly into the environment. Their negative impact on wildlife isn’t fully studied yet, but it’s known, for example, that ingredients in contraceptives may reduce the population of fish, while those in antidepressants were found to make birds such as starlings feed less.
“If I were a fish living in some of these rivers, I’d be worried right now,”The Guardian reported that Dr John Wilkinson, University of York’s lead author, spoke out.
People who are swimming in drug-polluted rivers are not in harm’s way, at least for now, according to the study. However, the study shows that the problem poses a much bigger risk for humanity. The presence of antibiotics within the waterways can allow bacteria to become resistant, ultimately rendering the medicine useless.
“The World Health Organization and UN and other organizations say antimicrobial resistance is the single greatest threat to humanity – it’s a next pandemic,”Wilkinson warned.
Researchers detected an increase in antibiotics at 19% percent of the monitored sites. “exceeded the levels that we’d expect to encourage bacteria to develop resistance,”He concluded.
Low- and medium-income countries had the worst rivers polluted with drugs. Hotspots were located in Lahore, Pakistan, La Paz, Bolivia and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
“This is most concerning because you have the most vulnerable populations with the least access to healthcare exposed to this,”BBC interviewed Dr Mohamed Abdallah, Birmingham University.
Only two rivers proved to be completely clean were those found in Iceland and Venezuela. Venezuela is home to indigenous people who reject modern medicine.
Carbamazepine is used for epilepsy. Metformin is used to treat diabetes. Artemisinin was an anti-malarial medication that is often found in large amounts in Africa.
Many so-called “semi-automatic” devices were also available. “lifestyle consumables”According to the study, the water samples contained caffeine from coffee as well as nicotine from cigarettes.
These authors recommended that wastewater treatment infrastructure improvements in areas most affected by the problem and responsible drug use, including antibiotics, be made to reduce river pollution. But even those measures won’t be enough to solve the problem for good, it warns.