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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 5 2012: In my opinion the responsibility to protect our environment from these harmful pharmaceuticals falls on both the consumer and the companies. Why not just companies? We cannot sit idly by and assume that companies will take the initiative to help create more environmentally procedures in disposing of these drugs. Also, as consumers we do our fare share of drug dumping into our ecosystems. We are all equally responsible as this is not an issue of where to point the finger but an issue of how to solve the problem as whole cohesive unit. If we cant come together to find a solution then we risk the situation getting even more critical.
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      May 7 2012: I completely agree with you Nicholas. Our next step would be coming together to find a solution or we will continue this cycle.

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