Pharmaceutical makers sending drug-spiked water to treatment plants

A new study led by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that wastewater treatment plants that accept discharge from nearby pharmaceutical manufacturers have "substantially" higher concentrations of drugs in the water.

A new study led by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that wastewater treatment plants that accept discharge from nearby pharmaceutical manufacturers have "substantially" higher concentrations of drugs in the water. In one extreme example, an antifungal drug was found at levels 3,000 times higher at a treatment plant near a drug maker compared with treatment plants that do not accept drug maker discharge. Published in <i>Science of the Total Environment</i>, the national study also found high concentrations of antihistamines, diabetes medication, muscle relaxants, blood pressure drugs, insomnia drugs, anti-seizure medication, and anti-inflammatories. Jose Lozano, director of the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility's Environmental Laboratory in New York who was not involved in the study, says his lab has found that keeping drug-tainted water in the treatment process for longer periods of time helps break down and rid the water of contaminants, but this approach "presents a challenge." He adds that many European countries use ultraviolet light to disinfect such water, but it is energy-intensive and would require "a massive investment."