A new report from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies suggests that pharmaceutical waste has significant impacts on the world’s streams.
Pharmaceutical waste can seep into waterways through aging infrastructure, sewage overflows and agricultural runoff. Even water treated at sewage treatment plants remains pharmaceutically laced due to treatment plants’ inability to filter the synthetic compounds.
Researchers analyzed streams’ biofilms to diagnose the impact of pharmaceuticals. Biofilms, which are complex communities of algae, fungi and bacteria, help improve water quality by recycling nutrients and providing a food source for invertebrates.
The research showed that pharmaceuticals, especially antihistamines, disrupt the production and health of biofilms in streams. The damage to biofilms may have negative long-term impacts on streams’ food chains and ecological balance.