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Allison Walter

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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?


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  • May 3 2012: I take a pragmatic and natural approach. The human body is an amazing system which doesn't need constant intervention from outside drugs but is better off left to it's own devices, the immune system being a incredible system resulting from hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. Having found that for my own personal balance and well-being that pharmaceutical drugs are best avoided I am not surprised to hear that the environment at large has the same sensititivities.I don't mean to undermine science which I have a great respect for but we should all be taking a common sense, balanced approach to taking drugs on an individual basis, i.e. as a last ditch resort when all else fails and not as a quick 'solution'. The pharmaceutical industry has a lot to answer for in terms of putting misinformation out there in the mass media/ advertising but at the end of the day it is up to the individual to educate themselves. We are all individuals and it is up to us to find the healthy diet and lifestyle appropriate to ourselves by using our own intelligence. There is no one size fits all solution here. Personally I now avoid the contraceptive pill, antidepresssants and antibiotics comlpetely and use painkillers sparingly, maybe once a year. And I find my health much improved. You should try it.

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