Pharmaceutical Use, Water,and Wildlife

There is the reality that the use of any powerful substance( of which there are many in the pharmaceutical world) will have wide ranging consequences.  And here is a cautionary tale that illustrates this.

From environment 360 by Sonia Shah

….The popular anti-inflammatory and arthritis drug, diclofenac, is sold worldwide under more than three dozen different brand names, and is used in both human and veterinary medicine. In India, farmers started dosing their cows and oxen with the drug in the early 1990s to relieve  inflammation that could impair the animals’ ability to provide milk or pull plows. Soon, about 10 percent of India’s livestock harbored some 300 micrograms of diclofenac in their livers. When they died, their carcasses were sent to special dumps and picked clean by flocks of vultures. It was an efficient system, for unlike feral dogs and plague-infested rats, South Asia’s abundant vulture population — estimated at more than 60 million in the early 1990s — carried no human pathogens and was resistant to livestock diseases such as anthrax.

But vultures who fed on the treated carcasses accrued a dose of diclofenac of around 100 micrograms per kilogram. A person with arthritis would need 10 times that amount to feel an effect, but it was enough to devastate the vultures. Between 2000 and 2007, the South Asian vulture population declined by 40 percent every year; today, 95 percent of India’s Gyps vultures and 90 percent of Pakistan’s are dead, due primarily to the diclofenac that scientists have found lurking in their tissues. South Asian and British scientists who experimentally exposed captive vultures to diclofenac-dosed buffalo found that the birds went into renal failure — scientists still don’t know why — and died within days of exposure. As the vulture population has declined, the feral dog population has boomed, and the Indian government’s attempt to control the rabies they carry has started to flounder…

much more via As Pharmaceutical Use Soars, Drugs Taint Water and Wildlife by Sonia Shah: Yale Environment 360.

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