TED Conversations

Allison Walter

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

What is more important: Our drugs or our ecosystems?

Originally created to support human health and treat illnesses, pharmaceuticals are being scrutinized as a new class of water pollutants with potentially devastating effects on our ecosystems. Drugs including antibiotics, anti-depressants, birth control pills, and painkillers have been detected in our water sources. The remains of these drugs enter water systems through industrial waste, medical facilities, household toilets, and other methods of disposal. They then pass through sewage treatment facilities and into groundwater, irrigation systems, and waterways from lakes to oceans.

Numerous studies suggest that pharmaceutical wastes pose a significant environmental threat. For example, commonly used anti-depressants and birth control pills are being blamed for reducing fish sperm levels in lakes. Many aquatic and terrestrial organisms rely on fish for their own food and survival; therefore these drugs can be detrimental to biological diversity. Scientists are concerned that traces of pharmaceuticals in our water sources can be linked to abnormalities ranging from frog mutations, inter-sex fish, to an increase in cancer and behavior changes in aquatic organisms.

With the rise of global drug consumption, how much responsibility do the pharmaceutical companies have to protect the environment? How much responsibility do we have as individuals to stop taking these drugs if they cause harmful effects on the environment? Do the benefits we gain from drugs outweigh the long-term and irreversible impact they may have on our ecosystems?

+3
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    May 1 2012: I feel like if we were to really choose between protecting our ecosystems or keeping our drugs that half the world would be faced with a new challenge of survival the way societies used to. If you take away the drugs we have all been introduced too more infections would come about and I feel more deaths would occur due to them. I am not talking necessarily really bad infections but simple ones that we can control today with medicine. Taking away such a simple thing as penicillin could cause more casualties if people felt that protecting our ecosystems outweighed the cost and benefits of our medicines. this is kinda a hard topic to argue from my prospective. Growing up in Portland where the sky, ground and buildings match each other for nine months out of the year and it seems that one in every three people is depressed sometimes letting simple drugs get into the waterways could seem like a good thing. heck ever wonder what the depression rates would be in Portland and Seattle if the cities could put anti-depressants into the water during the winter?

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.