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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 6 2012: Of course pharmaceutical companies should be responsible for the waste the release into the environment. Each company should be aware of the dangerous effects on the environment and know that no one else will clean up their mess, so they have to take charge and monitor it themselves. No one want to pollute our waters, but I'm sure pharmaceutical companies cut corners in order to increase their profit, but this is no excuse.
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      May 7 2012: Casey your comments have a lot of merit. Profit is the goal for companies, and pharmaceuticals are a big profitable business in the world. R&D is expensive and requires a lot of time; however, in the process they become aware of all the effects their product would have on lab animals, people, and ultimately the environment. It is pretty amazing, tho, when you think about it, that we take from nature to help our lives and then return to nature the product in a new form. As with all things, there are probably good side effects to products if only we knew how to manipulate and use them. Thank you for the thoughts.

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