Pharmaceuticals in the Environment

Pharmaceuticals Now Present in the Environment

Pharmaceuticals are being detected in water and soil by scientists worldwide. A 2002 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study found pharmaceutical and personal care product contaminants in 80 percent of 139 streams sampled in 30 states.

Pharmaceuticals enter wastewater treatment plants through either excretion or flushing of unused medications. These pharmaceuticals may not be completely degraded or removed at the wastewater treatment plant. Regardless of the level of treatment, most conventional wastewater treatment cannot effectively eliminate pharmaceutical compounds.

Concern about Pharmaceuticals in the Environment

Researchers suspect that hormones and pharmaceutical compounds in the water may be responsible for effects on wildlife including feminization of male fish, sluggish activity or reduced appetite. Short and long term human health effects are currently unknown.

In addition, pharmaceutical use in the general population is growing, so more unwanted drugs are generated and being improperly disposed and thus creating increased environmental concerns.