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What Happens To Those Antibiotics Cattle Eat?

You may remember a story I wrote last year about the the dangers of eating common beef most people buy at the grocery store. One of the biggest concerns I listed: About 9 MILLION pounds of antibiotic feed additives are used annually in the cattle-raising process. In fact, animals use more antibiotics than people do in the United States.

But what happens to those antibiotics once food animals have eliminated that tainted feed from their digestive tracts? According to a Colorado State University study, these antibiotic drugs -- used for enhancing growth, preventing diseases and increasing feed efficiency in food animals -- make their way into the public waterways.

The CSU study identifies antibiotics in waterways that came from both humans and animals, and is the first to pinpoint drugs specifically from animal sources.

While measuring compounds in stream and river bed sediment, scientists found the concentration of antibiotics was 20 times to 1,000 times GREATER in sediment than in the surrounding water. Nevertheless, the concentration of antibiotics were at levels below concentrations that could result in environmental impact or effects on human health.

But the presence of antibiotics in waterways remains a concern, according to researchers, for two very important reasons:

  • The potential toxic dangers of these compounds to fish, plants and other aquatic organisms -- as well as to humans through drinking water -- because water treatment plants generally cannot remove all of these compounds.
  • These types of animal and human antibiotics have the potential to contribute to the emergence of drug-resistant strains of disease-causing bacteria.

Science Daily October 25, 2004

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