Monday, April 16, 2007

Drugs Down the Drain

Many years ago a study out of England reported the discovery of mixed-sex fish (primarily male fish with eggs). Although nothing new now, this was one of the first reports of feminized fish. What I remember most about that study, was how we laughed (I was working with some fish physiologists) at some of their possible explanations, which included hormones from the pill or just every-day urine that had been flushed down the toilet.

Years later, the USGS routinely measures drugs, or the remnants of drugs flushed after passing through our bodies, or intentionally flushed by folks wanting to discard old or unused drugs. Scientists are increasingly concerned about the impacts of pharmaceuticals not only on aquatic creatures (imagine swimming in a sea of heart medication, pain killers and birth control pills) but in some cases on drinking water.

Now the American Pharmaceuticals Association (APhA) has teamed up with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to educate the public about proper drug disposal through a campaign called SMARxT DISPOSAL.

I don’t have the numbers on how much is estimated to come from intentional disposal and how much is excreted, (although either way – giving drugs a proper burial as described in the disposal guidelines has got to be better than ditching them down the tube – and some, they actually suggest you do flush), but it will be interesting to monitor the impact of this program.

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