Fifty to Ninety Percent of Drugs Given to People End Up in Wastewater


Water News in a Nutshell.

 The Hindu reports that an astonishing 50 to 90 percent of drugs taken by people in India eventually appear in wastewater.  This includes chemotherapy drugs that can kill cells of normal people exposed to the water.  While new forms of water treatment are needed, the urgent need is to find better ways to dispose of drugs. 

Unabsorbed pharmaceuticals in the human body find their way to wastewater streams after being excreted, they develop drug resistance in bacteria and their presence in water may cause mutation in the human DNA. This fact was highlighted by bio-scientist P.P. Bhakre at a national conference on water quality management in Jaipur recently.

Pointing out that 50 to 90 per cent of administered pharmaceuticals are released into waste water, Dr. Bhakre especially warned about the non-metabolised part of chemotherapy drugs that are used for treatment of cancer patients. Such drugs reach wastewater and may kill the normal cells of people who use this water after treatment from water bodies such as rivers and lakes — calling for the development of an alternative system to dispose of the unused pharmaceutical drugs.

The three-day conference discussed the challenges of supplying clean and adequate water to the people of Rajasthan as well as the scope for development of new technologies for purification of water for domestic use. Ninety per cent of the total groundwater in the desert State is used in the agricultural sector and the rest 10 per cent is used for domestic supply.

The deliberations also covered chemical and biological aspects of water quality management, contamination in distribution system, domestic devices for water and wastewater treatment. Paediatrician Sunil K. Gupta discussed the health aspects of fluorosis and nitrate toxicity from drinking water and threw light on hazardous effects of nitrates and fluoride content present in water.

There were several presentations on the importance of membrane technologies for purifying water. Since membrane-based technologies are not based on chemical treatment, they can rightly be termed green technologies.

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