• Question: With vast consumption of prescription drugs in the western world, what impact does pharmaceutical residue have on our rivers and seas ?

    Asked by buzz46pen to Philip, Maxime, Jake, Ann, Annette, Amy Heather on 11 Nov 2019.
    • Photo: Philip Schuler

      Philip Schuler answered on 11 Nov 2019:

      I think they have a big impact in rivers, lakes and groundwater (less in the sea becasue of massive dilution).
      Already you find pharmaceutical residues in treated water – I think the dimension of this issue and its impact we haven’t fully realised yet, but it will come.

    • Photo: Ann Reen

      Ann Reen answered on 11 Nov 2019:

      Good Question. I don’t know much about the pharmaceutical industry but I do remember learning about the Minamata Bay pollution incident in Japan while in college.

      What happended here was that industrial wastewater was discharged into Minamata Bay Japn around 1956. However the wastewater conatined mercury which is extremely dangerous if ingested (consumed) by humans.

      The mercury was discharged over a long period of time into the Bay so much so that the mercury built up in shell fish & fish living in the Bay. This is called bio-accumulation The Japanese ate the shell fish & fish & becamce very ill & a lot of people died as a result or their health was seriously impacted. It took some time to find out that mercury was the problem

      Once the authorities discovered it was the mercury they banned industried from discharing mercuy into the Bay.

    • Photo: Amy Heather Fitzpatrick

      Amy Heather Fitzpatrick answered on 11 Nov 2019:

      Great question! And also great answer from Ann below! We studied that case in university as it was so famous. Antimicrobial resistance is a huge problem. So bacteria become gain genes that allow them to fight off or resist antibiotics. When you use these drugs they end up in sewage, and when animals use these drugs they can end up in groundwater. We need to be careful about using less of these drugs. This is called antimicrobial stewardship. Its important to only use antibiotics for bacterial illnesses, nor viral or fungal. When you get antibiotics use the full dose give by your doctor. If we all act responsibly we limit the amount of these drugs and genes in our water and waste systems. So fish farms also have to be careful about the amount of antibiotics used.

    • Photo: Jake Cunningham

      Jake Cunningham answered on 11 Nov 2019:

      Hi there, fantastic question think my fellow scientists explained it better than I could have