The Scientist: “Levels of pharmaceuticals considered unsafe for aquatic organisms were found at more than one-quarter of sampling sites. A study of more than 1,000 sites in 258 rivers on all seven continents finds that pharmaceutical pollution is a pervasive problem worldwide. The work, published today (February 15) in PNAS, surveyed sites in 104 countries, including 36 countries not previously examined, and is the largest and “first truly global” study of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) pollution, according to the Global Monitoring of Pharmaceuticals Project, which conducted the research. The findings demonstrate that “pharmaceutical pollution poses a global threat to environmental and human health,” the authors write.
The researchers focused on 61 of the commonly used measurable pharmaceuticals—leaving thousands of others untested—as current technology only allows for 50 to 100 APIs to be measured in each sample. In addition to whether the APIs were detected at each site, the researchers noted whether the levels were above those believed to cause ecological harm, including effects like altering behavior, changing gene expression, and feminizing male fish. The actual ecological risks could be higher than predicted in the study, the researchers write, as APIs could have toxic interactions that aren’t incorporated into the analysis…”