Drugs and other pharmaceutical pollutions across the world’s rivers pose a threat to environmental and human health, according to a recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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The study found the presence of over 61 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in over 104 countries. More than 1000 sites were reviewed along 258 rivers across all continents. Of all the areas under study, only Iceland and a remote village in Venezuela where locals don’t use modern medicine were found to be free of pollutants.

Related: Coca-Cola is cleaning up river plastic pollution worldwide

Among the frequently detected APIs were carbamazepine (an anti-epileptic drug), metformin and caffeine. They were found in at least half the sites under review. On the other hand, antibiotics traces were found at dangerous levels at one in every five sites. In most of the sites studied, at least one API was found in levels considered harmful to wildlife.

Among the location with extremely high levels of APIs were Lahore in Pakistan, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and La Paz in Bolivia. Madrid in Spain also featured among the top 10% of locations with high cumulative concentrations. 

The study was led by John Wilkinson at the University of York, alongside 127 researchers from 86 institutions.

“The World Health Organization and UN and other organizations say antimicrobial resistance is the single greatest threat to humanity – it’s the next pandemic,” said Wilkinson. “In 19% of all of the sites we monitored, the concentrations of [antibiotics] exceeded the levels that we’d expect to encourage bacteria to develop resistance.”

Via The Guardian

Lead image via Pexels