11 July 2017
DRUGS AND THE ENVIRONMENT - Evidence is growing worldwide that pharma companies are polluting the environment and that even our drinking water supplies are now contaminated with measurable amounts of dangerous chemical drugs.
South Africans are also unwittingly ingesting traces of antiretrovirals, anti-epileptic drugs, antibiotics and antidepressants contained in municipal tap water. Compounds of some of these drugs have been picked up in several studies on water sources around South Africa. At least two of these studies have found traces of carbamazepine, an anticonvulsant also used in the treatment of bipolar disorder, as well as tramadol, codeine and morphine, commonly found in painkillers. 
Looking further abroad, a study  published in 2009, for example, found that fish caught near waste water treatment plants serving five major U.S. cities had residues of pharmaceuticals in them. Testing  has also revealed that at least 46 million Americans are drinking water contaminated with pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, scientists in the UK have found cancer drugs in tap water  and rising levels of antidepressant drugs in coastal waters which they fear could seriously upset the natural balance  of the ecosystem and potentially damage the food-chain. The world’s highest drug levels in water are believed to occur in India , where 21 different active pharmaceutical ingredients – at 150 times the highest levels detected in the U.S. – have been found.
Many South Africans would have noticed the reduction of European Starling birds which migrate between Southern Africa and Europe in recent years. Research in 2014 demonstrated that the popular anti-depressant Prozac in EU waterways has effected the libido in male birds, thereby crashing their population numbers to dwindle.