Pharmaceutical drugs in York’s rivers

Scientists have found 29 different types of pharmaceutical drugs in York’s two rivers. Samples from the Foss and the Ouse contained a range of drugs – including antidepressants and antibiotics.

The research team from the University of York also found drugs not available in the UK. They are now trying to assess the impact of these pharmaceuticals on the ecosystem.

Over-prescribing is a significant contributor to this problem, that rests in the main with GPs who are too quick to reach for the prescription pad and issue repeat prescriptions without a second though. Ass to this, sewage treatment systems that cannot cope with drug removal, and indeed were never designed to do so, and the lack of facilities for easy and appropriate disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals and the problem becomes a little more clear.

Two additional problems become clear. While some will focus on the inappropriate disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals down the toilet – often no more suitable alternative exists – it is an unavoidable fact that of the drugs which are consumed, and overall the vast, vast majority, over 95% will be excreted in urine within a day or so. Reduced prescribing will help, but instead of complaining Water UK must get their corporate act together and address improved sewage disposal treatments and methods to eliminate drug resides in the water discharges that at another time they will claim are entirely safe. There can’t have it both ways.

And when will we start to address the environmental and ecological impact of non-prescription drug residues, and of pharmaceutical excipients etc?  That is a problem as yet to be investigated. No doubt a real and probably significant problem, it falls almost totally outside the various control measures discussed above, they presently they don’t work anyway!




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