Wild Animals Have a Growing Drug Problem

February 6, 2020

Drugs are often a danger to human health, but they are also destroying the environment. Action Alert!

Many of us are aware of the dangers prescription drugs pose to human health through their side effects, but a new analysis raises the alarm about a problem that doesn’t typically receive a lot of attention: the contamination of the environment with pharmaceutical residues. The threat to human health of this pharmaceutical pollution is unclear, but the analysis concludes there is a significant risk to freshwater ecosystems and the global food chain.

Worldwide, there are over 2,000 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) that are used in drugs. These drugs then find their way into our water through a variety of ways. Many medicines, for instance, are simply discarded and end up as waste. When humans and animals ingest medicine, up to 90 percent of the active ingredient are excreted back into the environment. (This includes, of course, the use of hormones and antibiotics on concentrated feeding animal operations (CAFOs) where drugs are administered to thousands of animals to prevent them from getting sick in the squalid conditions on the CAFO.) The industrial wastewater discharge from pharmaceutical plants also adds to the problem.

APIs are finding their way into our drinking water, and for many substances we simply do not know what the effects of long-term exposure to very low levels of these drugs could be. For example, some APIs used in anti-cancer treatment will not have a safe lower level if they interact directly with DNA—especially on sensitive populations. Given the sheer number of APIs that exist, there is too much we don’t know. Tap water can contain multitudes of APIs, and we’re being exposed over decades. We’re simply rolling the dice with our health. Reverse osmosis water filtration may be able to remove some of these chemicals, but it doesn’t remove everything; and while people with means to do so can better protect themselves by purchasing expensive water filtration systems or bottled water, those without such means will be more exposed to these (and other) contaminants.

Certain environmental effects of APIs in the environment are well-documented. Diclofenac, an NSAID, has resulted in the endangerment of species of vultures; antidepressants and antihistamines have been shown to alter fish behavior; endocrine disrupting pharmaceuticals can interfere with fish reproduction; antibiotics reduce the growth of algae and aquatic plants; psychiatric drugs disrupt the hormones in fish and cause behavioral changes; and many more (for a complete list, see this link).

The economic impact of this contamination can be devastating. Ivermectin is a parasiticide used in veterinary medicine and has been shown to affect dung beetles, which play a critical role in ecosystems in decomposing animal waste. In the US, the cost of the loss of these critical services due to the effects of ivermectin on the dung beetle is estimated to be $380 million a year. We can only expect to hear more of these kinds of stories in the coming years if nothing is done.

Because the sources of pharmaceutical polluting are so varied, no one approach can hope to solve the problem. But drug companies should be forced to do more to show that their drugs are safe if we are going to be exposed to them at low doses through our drinking water.

This research is also an argument for a move away from pharmaceutical drugs that are dangerous and often don’t work in the first place and towards natural medicines which are safer and not as toxic to the environment.

Action Alert! Send a message to Congress and the FDA advocating for substantial changes to the drug approval process. Please send your message immediately.

 

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22 responses to “Wild Animals Have a Growing Drug Problem”

  1. Guy Perkins says:

    APIs are finding their way into our drinking water, and for many substances we simply do not know what the effects of long-term exposure to very low levels of these drugs could be. For example, some APIs used in anti-cancer treatment will not have a safe lower level if they interact directly with DNA—especially on sensitive populations. Given the sheer number of APIs that exist, there is too much we don’t know. Tap water can contain multitudes of APIs, and we’re being exposed over decades. We’re simply rolling the dice with our health. Reverse osmosis water filtration may be able to remove some of these chemicals, but it doesn’t remove everything; and while people with means to do so can better protect themselves by purchasing expensive water filtration systems or bottled water, those without such means will be more exposed to these (and other) contaminants.

  2. Anja Stadelmann says:

    To whom this may concern: When we produce drugs they don’t just go away. They go into our ecosystem and affect everything for years to come. Please be mindful of this when approving drugs and also put a better system in place to deal with unused drugs.

  3. Philip Splawn says:

    Need changes to the drug approval process NOW!

  4. Eileen Franklin says:

    Please consider what this is doing to the animals. Society treats animals so horrible physically & now destroying them by poison. God please protect the animals.🙏🏽😿

  5. Vicki Morgan says:

    Dear Congress and the FDA
    I am advocating for substantial changes to the drug approval process.i hope you will lead the way to taking notice and then action in this area.

  6. Robin Pappas says:

    Let’s think about not poisoning the environment with pharmaceuticals –
    let’s move toward more natural medicines and fix the drug approval process.

  7. Annette says:

    Please be aware of the seriousness of this problem, Pharmaceuticals contaminating our environment and wildlife. If we do not have a healthy environment with healthy wildlife and ecosystem, we will perish! Please do not take this lightly. We are getting sicker and more contaminated every year and this IS affecting all of us including you and your family as well. No one will be immune. Please stop these pharmaceuticals from being approved. They are DESTROYING our environment and ultimately us. Thank you!

  8. Priscilla Martinez says:

    We need to take better care of what is left of our environment, for our wildlife, and our marine life.

  9. marina sagardua says:

    Big pharma doesn´t accept losing a single captive client…

  10. Virginia Waldron says:

    We already have many ways of cleaning up our drinking water. I know we can find more precise ways of detoxifying the water contaminated with drugs which may be useful to sick individuals-yet harmful to the general population and to animals. I have faith and trust in our scientists that this is possible. Go team science and nature!!

  11. Doreen Lindahl says:

    Lack of responsibility is causing a toxic America for both animals and humans.
    A violation of the right to a healthy life.

  12. Christopher Tumolo says:

    We need to make substantial changes to the drug approval process. We need to move away from pharmaceutical drugs that are dangerous and often don’t work in the first place and towards natural medicines which are safer and not as toxic to the environment.

  13. Judith Mitchell says:

    We are hellbent on utterly destroying the Earth as we used to love Her — in myriad ways. What future generations will inherit from us seems almost unbearable to contemplate. Mutant animals; add them to the list of horrible predictions. No honey bees; few if any butterflies; there are already gene-altered deer, fish, birds. Big Pharma could care less. It’s only about profit for them. Sickening prospects.

  14. Jessica Rollins says:

    Drugs are often a danger to human health, but they are also destroying the environment.

  15. Fidel S. Arbolaez says:

    I’m advocating for substantial changes to the drug approval process.

    Many of us are aware of the dangers prescription drugs pose to human health through their side effects, but a new analysis raises the alarm about a problem that doesn’t typically receive a lot of attention: the contamination of the environment with pharmaceutical residues. The threat to human health of this pharmaceutical pollution is unclear, but the analysis concludes there is a significant risk to freshwater ecosystems and the global food chain.

    The economic impact of this contamination can be devastating. Ivermectin is a parasiticide used in veterinary medicine and has been shown to affect dung beetles, which play a critical role in ecosystems in decomposing animal waste. In the US, the cost of the loss of these critical services due to the effects of ivermectin on the dung beetle is estimated to be $380 million a year. We can only expect to hear more of these kinds of stories in the coming years if nothing is done.

    Because the sources of pharmaceutical polluting are so varied, no one approach can hope to solve the problem. But drug companies should be forced to do more to show that their drugs are safe if we are going to be exposed to them at low doses through our drinking water.

    This research is also an argument for a move away from pharmaceutical drugs that are dangerous and often don’t work in the first place and towards natural medicines which are safer and not as toxic to the environment.

  16. Patrick McIntosh says:

    Stop polluting animals watering holes!

  17. B J Arey says:

    For every action there is a reaction including unintended consequences. We, all of us, must take action to protect our environment. We must stop destroying our planet. Either we spend the money to protect our environment or we end up killing every living thing.

  18. Diann Rose says:

    This needs to be stopped. Please take action now to protect the public and our planet from this deadly contamination.

  19. Mary says:

    As a person with 5 autoimmune diseases, I am especially concerned about what I am ingesting when I drink water, or even cook with it. Not to mention the amount of leftover pharmaceuticals are in the food grown on contaminated land.

    Please find a way to consider the end result of pharmaceuticals which are contaminating our environment. Making end result “leftover” contaminants of our environment, before approving those pharmaceuticals.

    Our future should not be full of leftover pharmaceuticals in who knows what form.

  20. Julie A. Gengo says:

    This is completely irresponsible and based solely on the greed of a few. Pharmaceuticals may help some people, but most can and should find alternatives to wellness.

  21. John Moszyk says:

    Drugs are often a danger to human health, but they are also destroying the environment. Action Alert!

    Many of us are aware of the dangers prescription drugs pose to human health through their side effects, but a new analysis raises the alarm about a problem that doesn’t typically receive a lot of attention: the contamination of the environment with pharmaceutical residues. The threat to human health of this pharmaceutical pollution is unclear, but the analysis concludes there is a significant risk to freshwater ecosystems and the global food chain.

    Worldwide, there are over 2,000 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) that are used in drugs. These drugs then find their way into our water through a variety of ways. Many medicines, for instance, are simply discarded and end up as waste. When humans and animals ingest medicine, up to 90 percent of the active ingredient are excreted back into the environment. (This includes, of course, the use of hormones and antibiotics on concentrated feeding animal operations (CAFOs) where drugs are administered to thousands of animals to prevent them from getting sick in the squalid conditions on the CAFO.) The industrial wastewater discharge from pharmaceutical plants also adds to the problem.

    APIs are finding their way into our drinking water, and for many substances we simply do not know what the effects of long-term exposure to very low levels of these drugs could be. For example, some APIs used in anti-cancer treatment will not have a safe lower level if they interact directly with DNA—especially on sensitive populations. Given the sheer number of APIs that exist, there is too much we don’t know. Tap water can contain multitudes of APIs, and we’re being exposed over decades. We’re simply rolling the dice with our health. Reverse osmosis water filtration may be able to remove some of these chemicals, but it doesn’t remove everything; and while people with means to do so can better protect themselves by purchasing expensive water filtration systems or bottled water, those without such means will be more exposed to these (and other) contaminants.

    Certain environmental effects of APIs in the environment are well-documented. Diclofenac, an NSAID, has resulted in the endangerment of species of vultures; antidepressants and antihistamines have been shown to alter fish behavior; endocrine disrupting pharmaceuticals can interfere with fish reproduction; antibiotics reduce the growth of algae and aquatic plants; psychiatric drugs disrupt the hormones in fish and cause behavioral changes; and many more (for a complete list, see this link).

    The economic impact of this contamination can be devastating. Ivermectin is a parasiticide used in veterinary medicine and has been shown to affect dung beetles, which play a critical role in ecosystems in decomposing animal waste. In the US, the cost of the loss of these critical services due to the effects of ivermectin on the dung beetle is estimated to be $380 million a year. We can only expect to hear more of these kinds of stories in the coming years if nothing is done.

    Because the sources of pharmaceutical polluting are so varied, no one approach can hope to solve the problem. But drug companies should be forced to do more to show that their drugs are safe if we are going to be exposed to them at low doses through our drinking water.

    This research is also an argument for a move away from pharmaceutical drugs that are dangerous and often don’t work in the first place and towards natural medicines which are safer and not as toxic to the environment.

  22. R. BUTLER says:

    Waste Treatment Plants MUST filter “cleaned” processed waste water of drugs and toxic chemicals before dumping that “water” into any creek, stream, river, lake or ocean waters. This will keep wildlife and fisheries from this pollution from “civilization’s” processes and productions.

    In the meantime, people can protect themselves and their pets and animals by installing Whole House Filtration Systems and Reverse Osmosis filtration systems.

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