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Factories Dumping Medicines in Waste Water

Apr 20, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The Associated Press (AP) has long been following the issue of drugs in our waterways and is now breaking with more news about medications being dumped into waste water.  The findings are based on federal testing being conducted in sewage near public treatment facilities handling waste from drug manufacturers, said the AP.

Initial findings from two significant, federal studies reveal that increased medical waste is present in sewage near public treatment plants that service the drug manufacturing community, versus sewage not in the vicinity of such plants, said the AP.  One of the studies, said the AP, found drugs such as opiates, a barbiturate, and a tranquilizer at "much higher detection frequencies and concentrations" than samples taken at other plants, citing early research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Metaxalone, a muscle relaxant, was detected in treated sewage at significantly higher concentrations—hundreds of times greater—than “the level at which federal regulators can order a review of a drug's environmental impact,” reported the AP, which added that secrecy agreements with researchers prevented release of the names of the treatment plants involved.

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study of sewage at a public waste water plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan—which serves a large Pfizer Inc. factory—revealed high levels of lincomycin, an antibiotic that Pfizer was producing there when scientists were collecting samples, said the AP.  Of note, said the AP, a 2008 study conducted with lincomycin combined in tiny doses of other drugs also found in surface water, was able to make human cancer, among other findings.

Francesco Pomati, a biologist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, was extremely concerned with the studies’ findings, to date; he and his colleagues have warned that “chronic exposure to the combination of drugs via drinking water could be ‘a potential hazard for particular human conditions, such as pregnancy or infancy,’” reported the AP.  Lincomycin, for example, is known to mutate genetic information in bacteria, algae, microscopic aquatic animals, and fish, said the AP.

In March, we wrote about how pharmaceuticals, in addition to being found in our waterways, were found to be contaminating fish, which points to both environmental jeopardy and an additional route in which medications can work their way into our bodies.  In the first study of its kind, fish studied near water treatment plants were found to be contaminated with seven different pharmaceuticals, including medications to treat high blood pressure, allergies, high cholesterol, and psychiatric issues, said Natural News in a prior article.

In Asia and Europe, reported the AP, research is linking factories to drugs in water that include sulfamethoxazole, another antibiotic; diclofenac, a pain reliever; carbamazepine, an anticonvulsant; an antihistamine; aspirin; and female sex hormones.  In India, researchers have found that an astounding 100 pounds of ciprofloxacin, another antibiotic, enter a river there—daily—from one waste water treatment plant that services dozens of drug makers.  In Switzerland, drug maker Roche sponsored a study that found “0.2 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients escape during its own processing,” said the AP.  The AP pointed out that while the figure seems innocuous, when it is annualized over worldwide drug production, the amount of drugs released before dumping and human metabolic processing become astounding.

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