British rivers contain traces of 29 pharmaceutical drugs, study finds | The independent


Traces of 29 pharmaceutical drugs have been found in rivers in York.

The compounds included antidepressants, antibiotics, and drugs to treat epilepsy and diabetes.

The York University team that conducted the study said that although the levels found in the Ouse and Foss rivers were extremely low, there were concerns about the long-term implications of the results.

The samples included drugs that are not generally available in the UK and are believed to have been brought in by Chinese and American tourists.

The researchers behind the results said some drugs were found at higher levels than previously seen in parts of Europe and Asia.

BBut they added that two liters of river water would equal about a millionth of a patient’s daily dose of a drug.

The research, published in Water research and funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Program, showed seasonal peaks with higher levels of antihistamines found in summer and higher levels of drugs associated with cold and flu symptoms in winter.

Professor Alistair Boxall, who oversaw the research, said: “There is no evidence of the human health impact of pharmaceuticals in rivers, but it certainly deserves more investigation.

“If you compare the levels found in the study with what a patient is taking, then the level of exposure is very low. For example, we saw concentrations of metformin – a drug used to treat diabetes – at around 500 nanograms per liter.

“If you drank two liters of this water, you would get about a millionth of a patient’s daily dose of medicine.”

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He added, “However, it is important to realize that these drugs are continuously released into the environment and we will be exposed to them throughout our lives. It is therefore feared that some may cause damage.

“It’s a very complex problem to solve and we don’t really have the methods to understand whether long-term exposure to low levels of pharmaceuticals is important or not. “

Professor Boxall said there were also questions about the impact of drug traces on the ecosystem.


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