© 2023 Innovation Trail

Rivers on drugs

image of bridge over blue river against blue sky
Jenna Flanagan
Innovation Trail

They're beautiful on the surface, but, our rivers are on drugs.

The scientists at the Cary Institute of Ecological Studies say their findings show human drug use is having an increasing impact on the amphibious environment.

PPCP’s are leaking into our waterways and changing the ecology.

PPCP's: that’s pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Associate Scientist at the Cary Institute, Emma Rosi-Marshall says people don’t fully metabolize most of the drugs they take and they’re coming out in our waste products which then seep into waterways.

“You might not even realize that the things that you’re taking have an effect on the bugs and fish and the

woman standing next to podium in from of projector screen
Credit Jenna Flanagan / Innovation Trail
Innovation Trail
Dr. Emma Rosi-Marshall, Cary Institute for Ecological Studies

bacteria that live in the river but they may actually be having an affect but we don’t actually know what those consequences are and we may care about those organisms that live in the river and so trying to draw the connection between what we do in our everyday lives and the environment is really important.”

She says sewage treatment plants aren’t equipped to filter out pharmaceuticals and her research has found that antihistamines, anti-psychotics and antibiotics can alter an organism’s life cycle or change the way it functions.

Marshall says by no means should people stop taking prescriptions but they could start taking unused pharmaceuticals to local authorities for incineration.

Related Content