Tags: topical drugs | pollute | environment | APIs | active pharmaceutical ingredients

Topical Drugs May Pollute Water

Thursday, 25 March 2010 10:37 AM

Your morning shower may be sending topical medications down the drain to eventually pollute the water you drink.

Scientists have long known that toilets are sources of environmental pollution since medications are released in urine and feces, and people often flush unused drugs. Traces of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in birth control pills and antidepressants have been found in waterways even after going through sewage treatment plants. But the amounts of chemicals released into sewage from pills may have been overestimated.

A study found that while toilets are important, showers and baths are previously unrecognized sources of hormones, antibiotics, and other pharmaceuticals that enter the sewage system from skin patches, creams, lotions, and ointments. They are simply washed down the drain while bathing, showering, and laundering.

“We’ve long assumed that the active ingredients from medications enter the environment primarily as a result of their excretion via urine and feces,” study co-author Dr. Ilene Ruhoy said in a statement. She directs the Institute for Environmental Medicine at Touro University in Henderson, Nev., and did the research with Christian Daughton, Ph.D., of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Exposure Research Laboratory in Las Vegas.

“However, for the first time, we have identified potential alternative routes for the entry into the environment by way of bathing, showering, and laundering. These routes may be important for certain APIs found in medications that are applied topically, which means to the skin. They include creams, lotions, ointments, gels, and skin patches.”

Ruhoy explained that APIs in topical medications are released into the environment in a form that is basically unchanged, which could make them much more harmful to the environment than oral medications which have been processed by the body and largely metabolized.

“Topical APIs, from bathing and showering, however, are released unmetabolized and intact, in their full-strength form,” Ruhoy said. “Therefore, their potential as a source of pharmaceutical residues in the environment is increased.”

Ruhoy said consumers can reduce the impact of skin-based pharmaceuticals on the environment by following directions and using only the recommended amount.

“We need to be more aware of how our use of pharmaceuticals can have unwanted environmental effects,” Ruhoy said. “Identifying the major pathways in which APIs enter the environment is an important step toward the goal of minimizing their environmental impact.”

© HealthDay

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Your morning shower may be sending topical medications down the drain to eventually pollute the water you drink.
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Thursday, 25 March 2010 10:37 AM
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