What drugs are in your wastewater?

The results of the largest study of drug in wastewater has just been concluded in Minnesota and the results are not encouraging. It is interesting that the drug residues found most commonly is one for Attention Deficit Disorder.

from Minnesota Public Radio

Moorhead, Minn. — In the most comprehensive study of a variety of chemical compounds coming from municipal sewage plants, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency confirmed widespread, but low concentrations of water contamination from human medications and antibiotics.

The study examined 25 of Minnesota’s 500 municipal wastewater treatment plants, MPCA researcher Mark Ferrey said.

“Whereas before we’ve looked at maybe one, two, three different wastewater treatment plants, this is the first time we’ve looked at 25,” Ferrey said. “It probably is one of the largest studies like this in the country.”

The study reinforced what earlier researchers learned, that pharmaceutical compounds used by people are very common in rivers and lakes across the state.

Researchers also found another class of chemical compounds in their water samples — endocrine disruptors proven to alter fish reproduction.

The compounds researchers found most often include carbamazapine, a drug used to treat attention deficit disorder. They also found various antibiotics and diphenhydramine, a common antihistamine.

Ferrey said most of the compounds are found in very small amounts, measured in parts per trillion.

“We just don’t know what the long-term effect is going to be on our environment.”
– MPCA researcher Mark Ferrey

“Some of these compounds can have effects at these vanishingly low concentrations,” he said. “But for the vast majority of these compounds, we really don’t know what effect they’re likely to have on the environment.”

That’s because the environmental effects of most of the pharmaceuticals have not been adequately studied.

Technology exists to remove those compounds during the wastewater treatment process, but because it’s so expensive, it’s rarely used.

much more at Minnesota Public Radio

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