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Scientists Question Whether Prescription Practices Can Help the Environment

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Environmentalists are so worried about the amounts of drug residues being found in sewage, surface water, drinking water, soil and in wildlife tissues that they are suggesting it might be time to make prescribers more aware that what goes in their patients eventually comes out, so to speak. As reported by UoP News, the huge rise in people taking antidepressants, especially, is posing a threat to the environment.

In the U.K., for example, about 10 percent of the population is on these drugs, and environmentalists want to weigh the concerns of the humans against the drugs’ impacts on the environment. Education measures they propose include advising patients not to flush medications down the toilet, possibly considering counseling instead of drugs and prescribing the drugs for shorter periods.

Prescription medications are showing up in waterways across the globe, and it’s not just environmentalists in the U.K. who are worried about it. When you take a medication, only a fraction of it is metabolized by your body. The rest gets excreted in your urine or feces where it enters wastewater (and most water treatment plants are not equipped to remove drugs from the water supply).

Medications applied topically (in the form of a cream or lotion) are also problematic when the unabsorbed portion gets washed down the drain. There’s also the issue of unused medications, which may be flushed down the toilet or drain (by individuals and also by health care facilities, like nursing homes).

Even the manufacture of pharmaceuticals may lead to higher drug contamination levels downstream from the factories (up to 1,000 times higher at some factories, according to the Harvard Health Letter). The impact is heavy on marine life, from frogs to fish and more.

One huge problem is that these drugs make their way into surface water and groundwater because wastewater treatment plants can’t adequately remove them from sewage, and water treatment alone can’t adequately remove them from tap water.

Besides rethinking our dependency on drugs, and reducing our use of them, one way to help protect your own water is to use a whole house or point of contact filter to reduce pollutants in your tap water. One of the best types of filters for your home will use a three-stage filtration process — a micron sediment pre-filter, a KDF water filter and a high-grade carbon water filter.

This combination filters chlorine, DBPs and other contaminants. For more information and guidance on water filtration, see “How to Properly Filter Your Water.” Also, disposing of medications properly can help reduce the toxic load on the environment.

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