A new study out of the Netherlands published in the journal Environmental Research Letters evaluated the risk of ecological damage from pharmaceutical residue in freshwater ecosystems.
Concentrations of two pharmaceuticals — carbamazepine, an anti-seizure drug and ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic — were determined based on a series of models and evaluated for their aquatics risks. The risks were found to be 10 to 20 times higher in 2015 than in 1995.
The modeled values were then compared with actual concentrations from samples for carbamazepine taken from 10 river basins which were predicted well by the model, and for ciprofloxin from four river basins which were underestimated by the model.
Pharmaceuticals get into waterways through the excretion of drugs in human waste, disposal of unused medicine down drains and run-off from livestock farms and they can cause serious environmental harm.
Antibiotics especially can alter major nutrient cycles and decrease the effectiveness of bacteria-based wastewater management systems.