[Pharmwaste] Doctors fear drug pollution poses risk to fish, people

Tenace, Laurie Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Mon Jun 12 08:03:07 EDT 2006


"The American Medical Association, now meeting in Chicago, is considering
resolutions calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct
comprehensive studies on the topic."


Doctors fear drug pollution poses risk to fish, people 

June 12, 2006

BY JIM RITTER Health Reporter 

 



Doctors are drawing attention to an emerging environmental worry -- pollution
of lakes and rivers by drugs flushed down toilets.

A Baylor University study found trace amounts of Prozac in fish downstream
from a sewage treatment plant in Texas. And the U.S. Geological Survey found
pharmaceuticals and other organic chemicals in 80 percent of 139 streams
sampled in 30 states.

The American Medical Association, now meeting in Chicago, is considering
resolutions calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct
comprehensive studies on the topic.

"It's a huge, huge issue for us in the future," said AMA delegate Dr. Gail
Baldwin of Duluth, Minn.


Nation's medication use grows


Prescription and over-the-counter drugs end up in waterways after patients
excrete them or flush unused pills down the toilet. Sewage plants are
designed for industrial pollutants. They're not equipped to remove chemicals
from drugs and personal care products such as cosmetics, perfumes and
sunscreens.

The problem isn't new. But it's been getting more attention the past few
years because of the nation's growing medication use. 

Moreover, increasingly sophisticated test labs now can detect chemical
concentrations as small as one part per trillion.

No major EPA studies



While minute amounts of drugs are showing up in drinking water supplies, the
major concern is the potential damage to fish and other aquatic life. Among
the possible effects, according to the EPA:

*Sex steroids from drugs such as birth control pills might cause male fish to
develop female traits and change behaviors in both sexes.

*Dumping human and livestock antibiotics into the environment could hasten
bacteria developing resistance to antibiotic drugs.

*The class of anti-depressants that includes Prozac and Zoloft might have
major effects on shellfish spawning and other behaviors.

Most of the research so far has been done in Europe. The U.S. EPA has
gathered information but has done no major studies. A federal task force is
trying to figure out how to study the complex issue, said EPA spokesman Dale
Kemery.

"Regulations are not on the horizon at this point," Kemery added.

People typically discard pills when the drugs last beyond expiration dates,
cause unacceptable side effects or don't work.

Patients can safely discard unwanted pills at key hospitals, senior centers
and police stations. For locations, call 311 (Chicago) or (773) 869-7724
(suburban Cook County).

Laurie J. Tenace
Environmental Specialist
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Road, MS 4555
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400
PH: (850) 245-8759
FAX: (850) 245-8811
Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us  
 
view our mercury web pages at: 
http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/categories/mercury/default.htm 

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