Sewage test

If you’re looking for an indicator that humanity has a problem with substance abuse, look for detectable traces of drugs in cities sewage could be a critical warning. It almost sounds ridiculous to hear, but it’s true. Cities around the world have hired scientists to test their wastewater, and the result is that the water tests positive for drugs.

Not only is this a wake-up call to the prevalence of drug use in our society, it is also impossible to read this information without also thinking about the environmental impact of drug use.

Exposing the Crisis – Drug Chemicals in Urban Wastewater

This story is interesting and eye-catching. In addition, it is an alarm bell for the health and safety of urban populations and entire ecosystems. Unfortunately, it hasn’t received the widespread public attention it should.

In April 2021, a research group published results on wastewater samples from eight countries. Her research is available in the journal Water Research. The countries tested included New Zealand, Australia, China, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United States. Traces of several drugs came back from American wastewater samples, including traces of:

  • Acetyl fentanyl
  • Butylene
  • Ketamine
  • Methacathinone
  • Mitragynine
  • N-ethyl pentylon
  • Norketamine
  • Pentylon

The drugs tested are called New Psychoactive Substances, or “NPS” for short. The samples found that people living in the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States use the highest levels of designer drugs. “What makes the NPS so dangerous is that they were originally sold as a legal alternative to traditional illegal drugs like ecstasy and cannabis,” the analytical chemist and study author Dr quotes little information about their toxicity. Governments intervened soon after hospitalizations and deaths were linked to these classes of drugs, with some countries enforcing blanket bans. Despite these bans, however, NPS are still synthesized, transported and consumed all over the world, often with fatal consequences. ”

Overcrowded bar

The population of a region has to use a significant amount of drugs for test devices in order to absorb trace elements of such drugs in wastewater. The reality here is terrifying. All over the world, urban centers have such a high frequency and prevalence of drug use that when people in these regions use the toilet, collective waste disposal shows such a high drug concentration that these concentrations are easily detectable. These are usually prescription drugs used for getting high.

The research cited above was limited to designer drugs, sometimes referred to as “party drugs”. If designer drugs are so prevalent in urban sewer systems, what about other drugs? Like opiates? Or amphetamines? Or medicines?

It’s not just a human health problem; It’s an environmental health problem

The human health implications of this research are worrying. But there are also effects on the environment to be considered. To quote from a study published by Harvard Health: “One study found measurable amounts of one or more drugs in 80% of water samples taken from a network of 139 streams in 30 states. The drugs identified included a witch’s brew made from antibiotics, antidepressants, blood thinners, heart medications, hormones, and pain relievers. Sewage treatment plants are currently not designed to remove drugs from water. Also the facilities that treat water to make it drinkable. ”One only has to pause for a moment to consider the environmental damage that untreated pharmaceuticals can cause that enter the ecosystem of a region.

“Contrary to the uncertainty about the effects on human health, there is a body of evidence that medicinal products in water affect aquatic life, particularly fish …”

But what are some of the environmental impacts of drugs that seep into our water? Again citing research from Harvard Health: “Contrary to the uncertainty about the effects on human health, there is a body of evidence that drugs in water affect aquatic life, especially fish. Research has discovered popular antidepressants that are concentrated in the brain tissue of fish downstream of sewage treatment plants. ”This is just one example of many.

Waste from the pharmacy

To make matters worse, it is not just human drug use that brings drugs into the water system. drug Manufacturing plays a role in contaminating nearby lakes, streams, ponds, and even underground aquifers. To quote a detailed study by the United States Geological Survey, “Scientists found that pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities can be a significant source of medicine for the environment. Wastewater from two WWTPs derived from pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities (PMFs) had concentrations of drugs 10 to 1,000 times higher than waste from 24 WWTPs across the country that did not receive PMF discharges. The release water from these two sewage treatment plants was discharged into streams in which the measured drugs were tracked downstream and up to 30 kilometers from the exit of a plant. ”

This research paper also discusses how the livestock industry plays a leading role in the uptake of drugs into the water system, namely drugs such as acetaminophen, caffeine, cotinine, diphenhydramine, and carbamazepine.

Do we want to be a country that uses so many drugs that we pollute our water?

The words of Dr. Alistair BA Boxall, Professor of Environmental Sciences, are worth considering here: “We have only just begun to research whether and how they are [drugs] Impact on a wide variety of organisms in the environment and what this means for environmental health. Future work must therefore focus on understanding the biotic and abiotic processes that underlie the release, environmental behavior, and effects of drugs. ”His warning should be heeded if Americans and citizens of other nations are to protect their respective environments.

Do we want to be a country that uses so many drugs that we pollute our water with drugs?

There is no doubt that better solutions need to be found for safe wastewater treatment. Americans won’t stop taking heart medications, oral contraceptives, cold medications, allergy medications, and other OTC drugs anytime soon. It therefore goes without saying that wastewater treatment must be revolutionized in order to counter the ever more encroaching effects of mankind on the environment.

But beyond that, those who abuse mind altering substances like NPS drugs, opioid pain relievers, amphetamines, and synthetic substances should go to drug treatment centers as soon as possible. Getting help with an addiction is not only right for yourself and your loved ones, but also right for planet earth. An addict guided in and through treatment is a life saved and a boon to the environment as well.

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