Dec 12, 2019

Big Pharma's wastewater pollution problem

Polluted water
Photo: David Woodfall/Getty Images

Contaminants from drug manufacturing facilities have been tainting wastewater with dangerously high concentrations, according to an investigation from STAT.

Why it matters: Polluting rivers and lakes with pharmaceutical runoff is not illegal, but can be harmful to wildlife and the environment — and wastewater treatment plants don't have the ability to remove pharmaceuticals.

The findings:

  • The U.S. Geological Survey found that discharges from seven treatment plants had "very high levels of some drugs."
  • Downstream from a plant in Morgantown, West Virginia, an anti-seizure medication was measured at nearly 90 times the amount considered safe for wildlife.
  • Hospitals also contribute to drug pollution, releasing antibiotics and cancer drugs into the water.

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