A new report from United Nations Environment details how pharmaceutical drugs enter the environment and our public water supplies through waste treatment centers. Not only are humans at risk of contamination from pharmaceutical chemicals seeping into drinking water, the environment is also in critical danger of pollution.

Wastewater treatment plants fail to completely filter out chemical elements used by pharmaceutical companies in producing drugs and personal care products, so dangerous compounds get into freshwater systems from which people drink.

Wastewater Treatment Plants Fail To Completely Remove Chemicals from Drinking Water

Companies manufacturing drugs and personal care products are an essential part of modern life, but the damage their waste materials cause to humans and our environment is a growing concern that is not fully understood.

Modern wastewater treatment plants are not fully equipped to remove complex chemical pollutants from water, even though they succeed at reducing solids and bacteria by oxidizing water, Birguy Lamizana, Programme Management Officer at UN Environment and an expert on wastewater and ecosystems said.

A 2017 UNESCO study titled Pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment of the Baltic Sea region highlighted the difficulty of removing pharmaceutical drugs from wastewater.

“Only nine out of 118 assessed pharmaceuticals were removed from wastewater during the treatment processes with an efficiency of over 95 percent, and nearly half of the compounds were removed only partially with an efficiency of less than 50 percent,” said the report.

When humans drink water tainted with manufacturing chemicals, they can suffer serious health consequences. And when wastewater from manufacturing plants find their ways into oceans, marine creatures suffer, and an important source of human sustenance is imperiled.

The UN report claimed that mounting evidence shows that industrial chemicals leaking into the ocean can interfere with the sex functions of fish. Research suggests the consequences may not be limited to fish and could also pose serious health concerns to human reproductive systems.

When water ecosystems such as oceans, rivers and wetlands are chemically polluted, it imperils the health and livelihoods of people but also threatens the developmental and economic security of communities and countries.

The UN report urged pharmaceutical companies, global policymakers and businesses all work together to address the issue of drugs tainting water sources. The issue will be a main focus at this year’s World Water Day, the World Water Development Report, and the Stockholm World Water Week said UN Environment expert Elisabeth Mullin Bernhardt.

The World Water Week holds in Stockholm between August 26-31, and discussions of water safety will dominate the conference.

 

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