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 Call for EU to act on threat to water and wildlife from pharmaceuticals !

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David Harvey


Male Posts : 5381
Join date : 2010-01-21
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PostSubject: Call for EU to act on threat to water and wildlife from pharmaceuticals !   Fri Dec 12, 2014 7:19 am


There is increasing evidence that human and veterinary medicines are polluting rivers and damaging wildlife, according to a new report. The report's authors are calling for sewage treatment works to be improved and for European action on the issue.

“Pharmaceuticals in the Environment: A growing threat to our tap water and the environment” highlights the extent to which medicines are now polluting rivers and have harmed wild birds and fish and describes as  also “worryingly exposed.”

The report is calling for sewage treatment works (STWs) to be improved so that they remove pharmaceutical pollution from waste waters. It says there is also a need for continued research and development to optimise water treatment technologies. In particular it says the water industry should ensure that STWs are as energy efficient as possible and move to the use of renewable energy sources in order to reduce climate impacts.

Earlier this year Water UK, the body which represents all  the UK water companies,  reiterated its position that currently it is not practical to set formal regulatory standard for pharmaceutical residues in water (either raw water or tap water) until further research on the costs and benefits of doing so, supported by robust science, is available.

The report by the environmental charity CHEM Trust comes at a time of growing global concern about the environmental effects of pharmaceuticals. Later this month a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting will decide whether ‘Pharmaceuticals in the Environment’ should be recommended to be designated an emerging global policy issue.

The author of the report, Gwynne Lyons, Director of Policy at CHEM Trust, said:

“Most people would probably be surprised that in general they excrete between 30-90% of any medicine they take. With so many medicines now being found in our rivers, action on all fronts is needed to protect wildlife and drinking water.”

She added:

“The long term implications of many highly active medicines in our environment may come back to haunt us. The current situation is mind-boggling with fish contaminated with the birth control pill, antidepressants (such as Prozac), sedatives, antibiotics, painkillers, anti-cancer drugs and goodness knows what else.”

The report, an extensive analysis of the scientific literature and government reports, finds that there is a lack of adequate controls, including:
•613 pharmaceuticals have been reported in the environment worldwide, but analytical detection methods are not even available for many of the thousands of medicines in use.
•Rivers in the UK (and in all regions of the world) are now contaminated with many medicines.
•In England, anti-inflammatories and pain killers (ibuprofen and diclofenac) have been found in fur taken from otters.
•In Sweden, samples of perch fish were found to be contaminated with 23 pharmaceuticals, including antidepressants (such as Prozac), sedatives, antibiotics, painkillers and anti-cancer drugs.
•Baltic Sea salmon has been found contaminated with ethinyl estradiol, used in the contraceptive pill.
•Several medicines have been shown to harm laboratory animals at the levels found in the environment, but there is little monitoring for effects in wildlife.
•Assessments of the environmental risks from human medicines in use before 30th October 2005 were not required and are often absent.

The report says dozens of medicines have been found in samples of drinking water in EU countries with larger monitoring programmes (eg. in France, Sweden, Spain and Germany). Despite this, legal standards for residues of medicines in rivers and drinking waters are still lacking.

Sewage treatment works must be improved

The report by CHEM Trust concludes that individuals, companies and governments can all help to reduce this problem by ensuring that:
•Unused medicines are disposed of at pharmacies and NOT by flushing them down the toilet
•New medicines are designed so that they don’t persist in the environment, and
•Sewage treatment works are improved

The report’s authors are now calling for the European Union to strengthen laws relating to the pollution of rivers with pharmaceuticals, and for better international coordination on the issue. The report says European regulators have so far taken little concrete action to address pharmaceuticals in water.

However, some form of action must undoubtedly now be under active consideration. The Priority Substances in Water Directive (a daughter Directive of the Water Framework Directive) states that the European Commission must September 2013 develop a strategic approach to pollution of water by pharmaceutical substances by September 2015 at the latest.

The Commission are then subsequently required by 14 September 2017 to propose measures to be taken at Union and/or Member State level to address the possible environmental impacts of pharmaceutical substances, with a view to reducing discharges, emissions and losses of such substances into the aquatic environment.

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