Subh-e-Nau Magazine

The harmful effects of pharmaceutical pollution on the environment   

The purpose of research-based pharmaceutical corporations is to create value by discovering and producing effective medicines, vaccines and services that improve patients’ well-being. However, pharmaceutical pollution is a worldwide phenomena and needs to be curbed from causing further damage both globally and in Pakistan.    

Beyond innovation, pharmaceuticals hold a wider responsibility to ‘do no harm,’ by acting with integrity, complying with national laws, respecting human rights, applying fair labor norms, protecting the environment, and working against corruption to prevent harm to people,  communities and future generations.
The Pakistan Pharmaceutical Industry is a success story, providing high quality essential drugs at affordable prices to Millions. At the time of independence in 1947, there was hardly any pharma industry in the country. Today Pakistan has more than 800 pharmaceutical manufacturing units present in the country.
In worldwide ranges of pharmaceuticals are, 12,000 human and 2,500 veterinary pharmaceuticals. Each pharmaceutical consists of an active substance, mixed with a number of auxiliary substances to make it possible to handle and dose the pharmaceutical. Pharmaceutical products are widely used in the human health sector and in the animal husbandry. These substances have been designed to be biologically active and to cause very specific effects.

Pharmaceutical/Drug Pollution

Medicines or drugs  have an important role in the treatment and prevention of disease in both humans and animals. Pharmaceuticals have become a part of daily life for almost every member of the  society, and most households will have fully stocked medicine cabinets with their favorite painkillers or prescription drugs. But have we ever wondered that what  happens to all the medication that are unused or become expired? The simple answer to this question is, these drugs are often they get thrown in the garbage or flushed down the toilet. Old and unused medications can seem like a waste product of lower concern but they have the capacity to pollute many of the world’s waterways. One of the most daunting environmental issues the world has to deal with is pharmaceutical waste.
Pharmaceutical pollution is now detected in waters throughout the world,” said a scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.
It is because of the nature of medicines that they may also have unintended effects on animals and microorganisms in the environment and are the reason for causing pollution to the environment. Pharmaceutical or Drug pollution is a type of pollution of the environment with pharmaceutical drugs and their metabolites. Drugs/pharmaceuticals and their metabolites are taken by humans and animals are excreted via feces and urine and end up in the aquatic environment (ground water,  rivers, lakes, Oceans) and even drinking water, by discharge after passage of a sewage water treatment plant, or by run-off from the surface, leaching via the soil or drainage to the surface water after spreading of manure on the land.
Pharmaceuticals are present in the environment in sufficient quantity and can have devastating effects on the environment.  Pharmaceutical or Drug pollution is mainly characterized as a form of water pollution. From an environmental point of view, researchers have showed that pharmaceutical compounds are being used for several beneficial purposes in modern society but simultaneously pharma industries are releasing very toxic contaminants in the environment directly or after chemical modifications. These pharmaceuticals were detectable in untreated and biologically treated municipal waste water, surface water and a very few also in drinking water.
Although pharmaceuticals have been released into the environment for decades, researchers have only recently begun to quantify their levels in the environment. Using information from different countries and on various usage patterns, several prioritization exercises have identified those pharmaceuticals that are most likely to be released into the environment. The presence of pharmaceuticals in the environment are increasingly a worldwide concern.

How medicinal products enter and behave in the environment/sources 

“All pharmaceuticals, by design, are meant to elicit a biological response. We need to know what the environmental consequences are.”
—Dana Kolpin, US Geological Survey
Human and veterinary therapeutics are released or can enter the environment in a variety of ways:
  • Manufacturing emissions.
  • Human consumption and excretion of pharmaceutical products.
  • Improper disposal of pharmaceuticals down toilets and sinks.
The entry of these Pharmaceutical compounds into the environment are by different routes such as discharge of treated wastewater, seepage from landfills sites, sewer lines, runoff from animal wastes etc. The degree to which a pharmaceutical is transported between the different environmental media primarily depends on the sorption behavior of the substance in soils, sediment-water systems and treatment plants, which varies widely across pharmaceuticals. The most significant entry route for pharmaceuticals into the aquatic environment is the release from wastewater treatment works. This is because a large proportion of medication taken by patients passes through their body unmodified and travels via urine and feces to wastewater. Approximately 30 to 90% of the orally administered dose of a drug is  generally excreted as active substance in the urine of animals and humans.
Once released into the environment, pharmaceuticals will be transported and distributed to air, water, soil or sediment. A range of factors, such as the physico-chemical properties of the compound and the characteristics of the receiving environment, will affect their distribution. The improper disposal of pharmaceuticals are qualitatively, quantitatively, spatially and temporally shared out not only happen in households, but also hospitals and nursing homes. Pharmaceuticals end up in the natural environment at all stages of its life cycle: during the manufacturing process, while being used by humans (e.g. in our urine), and when they are disposed of.  A notable portion of medicinal products is disposed of in sinks, flushes and toilets, and ends up in the environment. Inappropriate and excessive consumption might also be at the origin of unnecessary emissions. Residues released during the manufacturing process may ultimately enter surface waters. Improper disposal of unused or expired drugs, which are directly thrown in toilets or end up in landfill, and pharmaceutical residues from manufacture spill accidents can also be regarded as other significant local points of potential contamination.
After administration, human medicines are absorbed, metabolized and then excreted to the sewer system. They usually go through a treatment works before they find their way into receiving waters or land by the application of sewage sludge. Once in the environment, medicinal products are transformed and transferred between the different compartments of the environment (surface and ground water, soil, air). Highly lipid-soluble medicinal products also have the ability to accumulate in the fat tissues of animals and can be thus introduced into the food chain. These products can degrade either by being digested and metabolized by organisms, or through physico-chemical processes in soils and water. When you flush the toilet, you probably do not think about the traces of the medicine and personal care products in your body that are winding up in sewage treatment plants, streams, rivers, lakes, bays and the ocean.
There are three broad types of pharmaceutical pollution:
  • Pharmaceuticals or prescription and over the counter medication made for human use.
  • Personal care products, they may include, cosmetics, fragrances, menstrual care products, lotions, shampoos, soaps, toothpastes and sunscreens.
  • Traces of illicit drugs can be found in water ways and may even be carried by many.

Causes and effects of pharmaceutical pollution

The causes of pharmaceutical pollution is not limited to manufacturing waste, they can also enter the environment from excreted human and animal waste. Pharmaceutical products enter the environment at different stages of their life cycle, but mostly during the production or manufacturing phase. One of the main threats is that, discharging antibiotics into the environment can promote the natural development of antibiotic resistance pathogens that are harder to treat.
Pharma pollution directly and seriously effects those living near production plants whose water and food sources are contaminated with waste pharma products. Adverse effects on plants, animals or microbes may occur in response to toxicity or an abundance of a particular chemical or drugs. Many  pharmaceutical  industries  are  responsible to  generate  toxic  effluent  as  a  consequence  of  their operation. The waste water generated from these industries possess solids, biodegradable and non-degradable organic compounds  etc.  Environment and health are directly or indirectly affected by pharmaceutical effluents especially in the vicinity of pharma industrial zones, effluents released by pharma industries pollute the drinking water sources. Pharmaceuticals have some adverse effects on all the living organisms, either they are the humans, animals of plants, let’s have a detailed knowledge of the effects  of pharmaceutical pollution on:

Wildlife

Ecosystems are delicate. The introduction of a drug, even trace concentrations, can have a detrimental effect on the habitat and reproduction success of species.
Scientists have discovered a range of adverse effects in wildlife exposed to pharmaceuticals. The effects of environmental pharmaceuticals on terrestrial organisms such as birds, worms, and insects can be due to the exposure of drugs when they feed on sewage, on fields fertilized with human or animal waste, or on the flesh of livestock treated with drugs. The emission routes of veterinary drugs and feed additives to surface water are very complex. Emission to the surface water can take place either directly, when the animals are kept on pasture, or indirectly by run-off and/or leaching through the soil. The extent of run-off and leaching depends on climatological conditions, chemical and physical properties of the substance, type of animal and agricultural practice. Other minor routes of entry include emissions to air and through the disposal of unused medicines and containers.
A research study on the topic of the “feminization of male fish” found that, Women all over the world use oral contraception as a birth control practice. Trace amounts of these drugs find their way into the water supply and end up being consumed by fish. In the case of male fish, studies show that the consumption of hormones in birth control cause them to breed at lower rates. The threat, is that over time species of fish that are chronically exposed to these hormones may become extinct.
Another study, from the University of York in the UK found that low levels of the antidepressant fluoxetine in the environment caused starlings (song birds) to feed less often during the key times of sunrise and sunset. While there are reports of starlings consuming antidepressants in their natural habitat (by eating worms that feed on sewage and consume trace amounts of antidepressants). According to the researchers, other antidepressants and drugs were found in the birds’ natural environment. One concern is that combinations of different drugs could prove to be more detrimental to wildlife than one medication alone. Another study found that otters that had been exposed to two common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs developed severe liver damage. Otter livers have not evolved to metabolize drugs to which they are now exposed, which may be a reason for the acute liver problems reported. These findings indicates that how sea animals are likely being negatively impacted by human drugs altering their environment. It was found out that antidepressants in surface water alter animal behaviors that are known to have ecological and evolutionary consequences. The impact of drugs on wildlife raises a question whether drug contaminants in the environment are contributing more to the extinction of various species than is known.

Plant life

A research study on the impact of commonly used drugs on lettuce and radish plants found damage to the growth of these plants even at low levels of concentration in the environment. The drug contaminants, such as trace amounts of ibuprofen, find their way into the soil through various channels, including the use of waste water for irrigation and sewage sludge for fertilizer. The study considered specific changes in plants exposed to trace amounts of drugs, including the plants’ water content, length of root and shoot, size overall, and the impact on the photosynthesis process. Each drug had a specific impact on each type of plant. For instance, ibuprofen had a significant impact on the early development of the root of lettuce plants.

Human health

Pharmaceuticals and their metabolites are more and more likely to be found in the receiving waters of areas adjacent to human activity and therefore further research in this area is warranted.
Potential risks on the exposure of low concentrations of pharmaceuticals are,
  • Ecotoxicological effects (acute and chronic toxicity, genotoxicity and carcinogenicity)
  • Pharmacological effects (interference of the hormone and immune system)
  • Resistance development of micro-organisms.
Hormones (particularly estrogen compounds) are some of the earliest medicines reported in sewage, and they have been found in significant concentrations. Pharmaceutical pollution leads to many serious problems such as Antimicrobial resistance.
Antibiotic resistance (AR) is a global phenomenon that has severe epidemiological ramifications world-wide. It has been suggested that antibiotics that have been discharged into the natural aquatic environments after usage or manufacture can promote the occurrence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARG). These environmental ARGs could serve as a reservoir and be horizontally transferred to human-associated bacteria and thus contribute to antibiotic resistance proliferation which is one of the major emerging threats to human health today.
Due to the extensive use of antibiotics in aquaculture, veterinarian medicine, animals, and human medicine, up to 95% of antibiotic compounds are released unaltered into the sewage system, which results in the accelerated resistance of bacterial pathogens to antibiotics. High concentrations of antibiotics can lead to alterations in microbial community structure and affect food chains. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antimicrobials are linked  with incidences of multi drug resistant infections.
Mainly antibiotics such as Sulfamethoxazole, Trimethoprim, Erythromycin and Keflex can get into the water and create antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are turning up in surface and ground waters, and are of concern due to the fact that antibiotics in the environment selects for drug-resistant strains of bacteria. When bacteria are exposed to low doses of antibiotics, they develop a tolerance for those same drugs. When humans are subsequently infected with these drug-resistant bacteria, certain antibiotics are ineffective at treatment. This is of concern to people because there are 14,000 deaths annually due to antibiotic resistance.
A study was conducted in the  Northern Pakistan to observe the occurrence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in selected samples from this region. 19 sampling sites were selected; including six rivers, one dam, one canal, one sewage drain and four drug formulation facilities. Out of all five rivers and all the dams, canal and sewage drain were found to be having the organism with antibiotic resistance genes. The scientists concluded that highest levels of both antibiotics and ARGs were seen at a drug formulation facility, within an industrial estate with a low number of local residents and no hospitals in the vicinity, which indicates that the levels of ARGs at this site were associated with the environmental levels of antibiotics. In fact, waste-treatment facilities can become ‘selection machines for drug-resistant bacteria.’ The main causes are pointed towards irresponsible use of antibiotics in human medicine,  farming and drug manufacturing pollution.

Pharmaceutical pollution prevention

Source reduction is one method by which the industry aims to reduce these wastes. Reduction of hazardous wastes can be achieved in industry through changes in products, raw materials, process technologies, or procedural and organizational practices. Sewage treatment plants remove some pharmaceuticals from water during basic filtering processes, such as UV light irradiation but at this point, it is prohibitively expensive to add technologies that can filter out these chemicals. The best way to reduce pollution is to prevent pharmaceuticals in the manufactures. Some companies have creatively implemented pollution prevention techniques that improve efficiency and increase profits while at the same time minimizing environmental impacts.
Many pharmaceutical companies are looking at ways to minimize waste in future production processes at the research and development stage. Burning the wastes chemically degrades their active molecules, with few exceptions. The resulting ash can be further processed before land filling. Incorporating pollution prevention at the start of a new drug development process is much more economical, efficient, and environmentally sounds. Many pharmaceutical companies have already implemented pollution prevention programs in their manufacturing facilities. Although pollution prevention may not always be a substitute for control technologies, it is often viable and is an increasingly popular method for meeting environmental compliance requirements.
One of the most common opportunities for material substitutions in the pharmaceuticals industry is found in the tablet coating process. Until recently, many tablet coating operations involved the use of methylene chloride and other chlorinated solvents. By switching to aqueous-based coating films, many firms have reduced the hazardous waste content in their air and effluent waste streams, as well as the cost of purchasing chemicals. Aqueous-based cleaning solutions are also being used more frequently for equipment cleaning instead of solvent-based solutions. Another prevention is the environmental law and regulations. Despite regulation and legislation regarding the methods by which pharmaceutical companies must treat waste water, manufacturers were continuing to discharge untreated or inappropriately treated waste into the environment. If anything, the situation appeared to have worsened.

Pharmaceutical pollution around the world and Pakistan 

The issue of pharmaceuticals in the environment is gaining more attention around the world.  The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), an initiative run by the United Nations Environment Program that aims to foster the responsible use of chemicals, is considering whether to list environmentally persistent pharmaceutical pollutants as an emerging policy issue.
The European Union requires companies to conduct an environmental risk assessment (ERA) for all new drugs. Few companies, has developed a system of ‘Ecopharmacovigilance’, in which it tracks new data on the environmental effects of its drugs so it can keep risk assessments up to date. But even if an ERA finds a high risk of environmental harm, it cannot prevent the marketing of a drug — and few would want it to. The need of the time is to look at the best option to reduce the risk. In Sweden, drugs are graded on their environmental effects, and doctors are required to prescribe a less damaging drug where the option exists.
Pakistan is a rapidly developing country, and chemicals, pharmaceuticals and toxins including arsenic have been found in the village’s drinking water and are causing the deformities, said Dr. Khalid Jamil Akhtar, a private clinician who has been visiting the area for the provincial government.
According to Dr Akhtar, most of the patients he saw were suffering from neuropathy, primarily caused by “contaminated water, by the toxins of the factories in the area.” According to the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 90 % of factories in and around the city dump their waste untreated in open pits or discharge untreated water in streams.
In our country, it is quite hard to implement any sort of law. Hospital waste is often discovered in different waste disposal sites where it really should not be. The study, published last year, identified high concentrations of pharmaceuticals along the Indus River and its tributaries, with “hot spots” around the populated areas of Lahore and the southern city of Hyderabad.
Lubna Bukhari, head of water quality for the  Pakistan Council of Research in Water (PCRWR), said “We have done tests on up to 60,000 samples from Lahore to lower Sindh under a study being carried out since 1999 and have found toxic pharmaceutical wastes at many places,”
It also says that water monitoring projects carried out since 2012 show that between 69 and 85 percent of Pakistan’s total water is contaminated or otherwise unfit for human consumption, said Bukhari.
In the late 1990s, tens of millions of vultures began dropping dead around Pakistan. First, scientists assumed it was an infectious agent, then an environmental toxin. It was neither. In 2004, they pinpointed the cause: an anti-inflammatory drug named diclofenac. The birds had suffered acute kidney failure after ingesting diclofenac from the carcasses of livestock that had been given the drug to treat lameness and fever. “Vultures in that region were exceedingly sensitive to diclofenac,” says Kolpin, a researcher.
Pakistan banned veterinary use of diclofenac and in response to that, Wildlife groups immediately called for a full veterinary ban on the drug, and conducted a review of the risk of the drug.
Meanwhile, many more terrestrial species are at risk from countless other pharmaceuticals polluting the environment in Pakistan.
A study was conducted to confirm the presence of pharmaceuticals in domestic wastewater in Mardan and in surface water of Kalpani stream, River Kabul, and River Indus. The highest concentrations in sewage and surface water were detected for paracetamol and ibuprofen, to analyses the adverse effects caused by these drugs on aquatic ecosystem, soil, and groundwater. The paracetamol, ibuprofen,and diclofenac were found in River Indus, River Kabul and Kalpani stream, this showed  a medium to high risk for daphnia, fish, and algae.
There are 796 hospitals in the urban areas of Pakistan. In a survey it is reported that there are 153 hospitals with 12,014 beds and about 832 clinics and dispensaries with 500 beds, treated 0.6 million indoor patients and generated total waste of about 13,140 tonnes, at the rate of 36 tonnes/day at Karachi city. Hospitals are for curing people but if we use the equipment utilized in curing people to in turn affecting people again, then that is definitely not at benefit for us! In Pakistan, there is a big problem of disposing off the hospital waste, it is a big deal because if it is not handled properly then there would be serious health effects from the public health standpoint.
Hospital wastes are actually any waste which is generated in the diagnosis, treatment or immunization of human beings or animals or in research in a hospital. These wastes carry a huge level of infection and injury.  About 75-90% of the waste is non-hazardous and called as general waste and remaining 10-15% is hazardous to human health. Hospital generate huge sums of garbage and according to the most recent data available from eco-friendly health care network Green health, hospitals generate about 33.8 pounds of waste per day, per staff, which is actually quite dangerous, and that is exactly why each hospital in the country ought to work with a medical waste treatment company.
The hospital wastes includes infectious waste, pathological waste, sharps, pharmaceutical waste, Geno toxic waste, chemical waste and radioactive waste. Hospital wastes tend to consist of potentially harmful microorganisms that can infect hospital patients, health-care workers, and the general public if not disposed of correctly. In Pakistan the hospitals dispose their hazardous waste, through different techniques among them is incineration- where the syringes and other used products are burnt, there  burning can cause the emission of toxins, mercury, metals and other pollutants like residual ash.
In Karachi, hospitals dumped their waste openly inside or outside the hospital premises, which was on daily or weekly basis. Only (25%) hospitals had properly designed storage areas with hard floors, good drainage and water supply, proper locking system to prevent access to unauthorized persons, inaccessible to animals, birds, and insects and had a ventilation system. Our government should come into action and ban this wrong form of disposal and seal those medical facilities that can be look so high class yet do not properly handle their hospital waste properly.
It is quite obvious now that the air the land and environment and all the organisms living on it are seriously affected by the pharmaceutical pollutants. According to environmental specialist Dr Huma Bajwa, due to the lack of awareness, people tend to handle the waste with bare hands thus raising the likelihood of spreading the disease. Some 20 to 25% of the total waste generated by health-care establishments is regarded as hazardous and may create a variety of health and environmental risks if not managed and disposed of in an appropriate manner.
If we really want a solution then, at each administrative level, clear institutional and individual responsibilities should be established and, specific monitoring and administrative procedures should be set-up with adequate resources allocated to ensure the proper management of the pharmaceutical wastes. There should be awareness and training programs for health officers and planners, hospital administrators, medical staff and environmental health officers should be developed. Moreover, appropriate, environmental-friendly and affordable technologies should be selected for the treatment and the disposal of pharmaceutical products , taking into consideration both technical and financial resources available in the country. When the hospitals in Hyderabad, Sindh and its vicinity were surveyed to collect the information about frequently prescribed drugs and the presence of these the antibiotics in aqueous environmental samples, it was found out that these  five antibiotics (cefuroxime, cefotaxime, cefradine, ofloxacin and ciprofloxacin) and two analgesics (ibuprofen and diclofenac sodium) were in the hospital wastewater of Hyderabad.
The problem of pharmaceutical pollution should be treated with extra urgency by Pakistan’s looming water scarcity crisis, with the country on track to become the most water-stressed country in the region by 2040, according to the UN. The problem in our country is that there is no national strategy for cleaning up water and the environmental matters are  left in the hands of provincial authorities.
Because of the consumption of the contaminated water in Pakistan, the country has become the home to numerous waterborne diseases. We have failed to stop pollution from poisoning our rivers and canals and other watercourses.  The prevalence of hepatitis C, typhoid, and many stomach ailments could be prevented if the water channels are not polluted.
The government should take action against the pharmaceutical companies for the drug regulation system to ensure this pollution issue to be stopped and they should take some serious steps to find a solution against the spread of pharmaceutical contaminants in the environment. Also, there is an urgent need of pharmaceutical pollution awareness and use of appropriate waste treatment technologies in Pakistan for environmental conservation.

Solutions to control pharmaceutical pollution 

At the individual level we should limit bulk purchase of drugs. Volume discounts make the price attractive but big bottle of unused pills creates opportunity for medications to end up in the waste, so purchase the amount of medicine needed at that time. Do not flush unused medicines or pour them down, if you follow this simple rule, problems related to the pollution would be lessened.
Be careful about how you throw medication into the trash. If you put them in the trash, remove them from packaging, crash them, seal them in a plastic bag with some water, sawdust, coffee grounds or some other unappealing materials to the bag to cut down the contacts.
New methods for treating these chemicals are beginning to be developed and tested. Removal of such contaminants at trace levels makes this such a difficult task to complete. Typical treatment methods are not advanced enough to remove pharmaceutical.  A recent study titled: “Removal of Pharmaceuticals during Drinking Water Treatment”, describes the various new treatment processes which were tested for their accuracy with five target pharmaceuticals.
 These methods included:
  • Biodegradation
  • Flocculation
  • Activated carbon adsorption
  • Ozonation
Different  studies on how to treat wastewater that will target pharmaceuticals include:
  • Granular Activated Carbon
  • Powder Activated Carbon Chlorination
  • Ozonation
  • Flocculation
  • Filtration
  • Adsorption
  • Biodegradation
A number of these methods are new ways of treatment and some have not been developed to their full extent yet.  Several experiments use these methods as a way to test the possibility of treatment and have had varying degrees of success.
Technologies such as ozonation and nanofiltration are expensive, and no one method has been shown to remove all bioactive agents.  Many of the treatment methods, whilst removing the pharmaceuticals, may also produce transformation products that are more persistent and mobile than the parent compounds, some of which may also have similar or enhanced toxicity.
Some researchers advocate measures to prevent pharmaceuticals from ever entering the water system, namely by designing drugs that quickly degrade in the environment. There is a need to provide awareness to people and promote ‘prudent’ use of drugs, improve training and risk assessment, gather monitoring data, incentives ‘green design’, reduce emissions from manufacturing, and reduce waste and improve wastewater treatment and most importantly improving understanding of the risks.
We should strive to refine the ways in which we use, handle and treat medicines to minimize their releases to the environment. Implementing technologies and practices to reduce waste would result in less drug residue leaking out into the environment.
There is also a need to study the ‘cocktail effect’ — the way different drugs can interact to produce adverse effects. Pharmacists and doctors warn patients that they should not mix ibuprofen with beta-blockers, but a fish swimming in a soupy mixture of drugs and other chemicals in a polluted river does not have that option.
Environmental scientists should be involved much earlier in the drug discovery process to advise on how to balance efficacy with environmental concerns. Some scientists argue that we should spend less time identifying individual drugs in the environment and more time trying to prevent them from reaching it in the first place.
 “We have to think about preventative measures, not wait until the negative effects play out,” says Kümmerer, a researcher.

What does the future look like? 

Unfortunately, the current pollution based practices remain largely unchanged. However, attempts are being made to provoke action. New partnerships between drug companies, the public-health sector and those who deliver environmental sustainability are urgently needed to tackle the issue. A more long-term solution might lie in the concept of ‘benign by design’, in which drugs are designed from the start to be less harmful to the environment. Many drugs include molecules that are not found in biology — such as halogen groups — that make them more persistent in the body and the environment. Low-cost pharmaceuticals are increasingly accessible to the global population, which is predicted to exceed 8 billion by 2050. There is a clear understanding from many countries of the World that steps must be taken to reduce pharmaceutical pollution and combat antimicrobial resistance.
Our modern environment contains a swirling mixture of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, industrial by-products, and a plethora of other chemicals. What is happening in reality is an exceedingly complex cocktail of compounds. To make matters worse, pharmaceuticals are hard to detect and measure in the environment. There are now programs in many countries which provide collection points at places including drug stores, grocery stores, and police stations. People can bring their unwanted pharmaceuticals there for safe disposal, instead of flushing them (externalizing them to the waterways) or throwing them in the trash (externalizing them to the landfill, where they can become leachate). The dire situation was highlighted in the report Frontiers 2017: Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern produced by the UN, the WHO have already set out a global action plan.
Several companies have invested in a project under the EU’s Innovative Medicines Initiative to develop tools to screen environmental properties earlier in drug development. The increasing importance of biologic drugs, which break down more readily, will also help. But it will be a long process.  Scientists are hoping that “A lot of the drugs that will be entering the market five years from now have already been discovered.” Authorities in Pakistan should look into this serious matter and adopt some of these strategies.

Green Pharmacy

According to Yale Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, concerns about the impact of drug manufacturing on the environment led to federal regulation in this area as early as 1938. Today, the movement to protect the environment and waterways from pharmaceutical manufacturing practices is known as “green pharmacy.” The concept of green pharmacy embodies a commitment to designing the drug manufacturing process to make the lightest footprint on the environment. Such measures are not only desirable, but also necessary over the long term.  Yale Environment 360 believes that drug manufacturers should focus on making drugs that are easily biodegradable and have a more benign impact on the environment.
Although there may seem to be a dearth of research in the critical area of the environmental impact of drugs, there is a growing and firm concern about how to design more benign drugs. One strategy is to make drugs more environmentally friendly but one of the drawback in making a drug eco-friendly is, it can undercut its treatment efficacy. One possibility is to develop a formula that improves biodegradability once a medication is released.
Pharmaceutical companies should use such “green” chemical techniques to design drugs that biodegrade quickly in the environment, says Paul Anastas, director of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale University. “For not just pharmaceutical chemists, but for all chemists, whenever we know things are going into the environment, we have an obligation to make sure they are as least toxic as possible.”
In summary, drug or pharmaceutical pollution is harmful type of pollution and it happens when humans from drug industries are irresponsible for their actions and contaminate the water with their unwanted drugs and pharma products. It is not just effecting the environment only but it is also harmful for the organisms living in water and becomes another dangerous reason of human behavior, therefore to prevent issues like, we humans should take actions into consideration and do things that prevents drug pollution as well as raise awareness to educate those who do not know the consequences of this issue. All possible helpful measures should be taken to help to better protect the environment and those we share our environment with against drug contaminants.
Scientists are studying the effect of these drugs on ecosystems, and are trying to find ways of preventing the problem, for example by the correct disposal of unwanted medicines, improving the treatment of sewage and, ultimately, designing more environmentally friendly drugs.
For the foreseeable future the only option will be to improve sewage treatment to reduce the amount of drugs that reach rivers and lakes and the drug industry should take more responsibility for their products over their life cycle. Pakistan is already drenched with a lot of problems, but the health issues is the main concern, our government as well as the people should take keen interest towards the betterment of the environment. We are responsible for providing a safer and better eco-friendly environment to our future generations.
Writer: Sundeela Fayyaz

 

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Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth’s natural life   

Scientists reveal 1 million species at risk of extinction in alarming UN report.  

Human society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems, the world’s leading scientists have warned, as they announced the results of the most thorough planetary health check ever undertaken.
From coral reefs flickering out beneath the oceans to rainforests desiccating into savannahs, nature is being destroyed at a rate tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10m years, according to the UN global assessment report.
The biomass of wild mammals has fallen by 82%, natural ecosystems have lost about half their area and a million species are at risk of extinction – all largely as a result of human actions, said the study, compiled over three years by more than 450 scientists and diplomats.
Two in five amphibian species are at risk of extinction, as are one-third of reef-forming corals, and close to one-third of other marine species. The picture for insects – which are crucial to plant pollination – is less clear, but conservative estimates suggest at least one in 10 are threatened with extinction and, in some regions, populations have crashed. In economic terms, the losses are jaw-dropping. Pollinator loss has put up to $577bn (£440bn) of crop output at risk, while land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of global land.
The knock-on impacts on humankind, including freshwater shortages and climate instability, are already “ominous” and will worsen without drastic remedial action, the authors said.
“The health of the ecosystems on which we and other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” said Robert Watson, the chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Ibpes). “We have lost time. We must act now.”
The warning was unusually stark for a UN report that has to be agreed by consensus across all nations. Hundreds of scientists have compiled 15,000 academic studies and reports from indigenous communities living on the frontline of change. They build on the millennium ecosystem assessment of 2005, but go much further by looking not just at an inventory of species, but the web of interactions between biodiversity, climate and human wellbeing.
Over the past week, representatives from the world’s governments have fine-tuned the summary for policymakers, which includes remedial scenarios, such as “transformative change” across all areas of government, revised trade rules, massive investments in forests and other green infrastructure, and changes in individual behaviour such as lower consumption of meat and material goods.
Following school strikes, Extinction Rebellion protests, the UK parliament’s declaration of a climate emergency and Green New Deal debates in the US and Spain, the authors hope the 1,800-page assessment of biodiversity will push the nature crisis into the global spotlight in the same way climate breakdown has surged up the political agenda since the 1.5C report last year by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
David Obura, one of the main authors on the report and a global authority on corals, said: “We tried to document how far in trouble we are to focus people’s minds, but also to say it is not too late if we put a huge amount into transformational behavioural change. This is fundamental to humanity. We are not just talking about nice species out there; this is our life-support system.”
The report shows a planet in which the human footprint is so large it leaves little space for anything else. Three-quarters of all land has been turned into farm fields, covered by concrete, swallowed up by dam reservoirs or otherwise significantly altered. Two-thirds of the marine environment has also been changed by fish farms, shipping routes, subsea mines and other projects. Three-quarters of rivers and lakes are used for crop or livestock cultivation. As a result, more than 500,000 species have insufficient habitats for long-term survival. Many are on course to disappear within decades.
Eduardo Brondizio, an Ibpes co-chair from Indiana State University, said: “We have been displacing our impact around the planet from frontier to frontier. But we are running out of frontiers … If we see business as usual going forward then we’ll see a very fast decline in the ability of nature to provide what we need and to buffer climate change.”
Agriculture and fishing are the primary causes of the deterioration. Food production has increased dramatically since the 1970s, which has helped feed a growing global population and generated jobs and economic growth. But this has come at a high cost. The meat industry has a particularly heavy impact. Grazing areas for cattle account for about 25% of the world’s ice-free land and more than 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Crop production uses 12% of land and creates less than 7% of emissions.
The study paints a picture of a suffocating human-caused sameness spreading across the planet, as a small range of cash crops and high-value livestock are replacing forests and other nature-rich ecosystems. As well as eroding the soil, which causes a loss of fertility, these monocultures are more vulnerable to disease, drought and other impacts of climate breakdown.
In terms of habitats, the deepest loss is of wetlands, which have drained by 83% since 1700, with a knock-on impact on water quality and birdlife. Forests are diminishing, particularly in the tropics. In the first 13 years of this century, the area of intact forest fell by 7%, bigger than France and the UK combined. Although the overall rate of deforestation has slowed, this is partly an accounting trick, as monoculture plantations replace biodiverse jungle and woodland.
Oceans are no longer a sanctuary. Only 3% of marine areas are free from human pressure. Industrial fishing takes place in more than half the world’s oceans, leaving one-third of fish populations overexploited.
Climate change, pollution and invasive species have had a relatively low impact, but these factors are accelerating. Emissions continue to rise. Last week, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed the 415 parts per million mark for the first time. Even if global heating can be kept within the Paris agreement target of 1.5C to 2C, the ranges of most species will shrink profoundly, the paper warns.
Population growth is noted as a factor, along with inequality. Individuals in the developed world have four times as much of an economic footprint as those in the poorest countries, and the gap is growing.
Our species now extracts 60bn tons of resources each year, almost double the amount in 1980, though the world population has grown by only 66% in that time. The report notes how the discharges are overwhelming the Earth’s capacity to absorb them. More than 80% of wastewater is pumped into streams, lakes and oceans without treatment, along with 300m-400m tons of heavy metals, toxic slurry and other industrial discharges. Plastic waste has risen tenfold since 1980, affecting 86% of marine turtles, 44% of seabirds and 43% of marine mammals. Fertiliser run-off has created 400 “dead zones”, affecting an area the size of the UK.
Andy Purvis, a professor at the Natural History Museum in London and one of the main authors of the report, said he was encouraged nations had agreed on the need for bitter medicine.
“This is the most thorough, most detailed and most extensive planetary health check. The take-home message is that we should have gone to the doctor sooner. We are in a bad way. The society we would like our children and grandchildren to live in is in real jeopardy. I cannot overstate it,” he said. “If we leave it to later generations to clear up the mess, I don’t think they will forgive us.”
The next 18 months will be crucial. For the first time, the issue of biodiversity loss is on the G8 agenda. The UK has commissioned Partha Dasgupta, a professor at Cambridge University, to write a study on the economic case for nature, which is expected to serve a similar function as the Stern review on the economics of climate change. Next year, China will host a landmark UN conference to draw up new global goals for biodiversity.
Cristiana Pașca Palmer, the head of the UN’s chief biodiversity organisation, said she was both concerned and hopeful. “The report today paints quite a worrying picture. The danger is that we put the planet in a position where it is hard to recover,” she said. “But there are a lot of positive things happening. Until now, we haven’t had the political will to act. But public pressure is high. People are worried and want action.”
The report acknowledges current conservation strategies, such as the creation of protected areas, are well-intended but inadequate. Future forecasts indicate negative trends will continue in all scenarios except those that embrace radical change across society, politics, economics and technology.
It says values and goals need to change across governments so local, national and international policymakers are aligned to tackle the underlying causes of planetary deterioration. This includes a shift in incentives, investments in green infrastructure, accounting for nature deterioration in international trade, addressing population growth and unequal levels of consumption, greater cooperation across sectors, new environmental laws and stronger enforcement.
Greater support for indigenous communities and other forest dwellers and smallholders is also essential. Many of the last holdouts for nature are in areas managed by such groups, but even here, the pressures are beginning to take a toll, as wildlife declines along with knowledge of how to manage it.
Josef Settele, an Ipbes co-chair and entomologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany, said: “The situation is tricky and difficult but I would never give up. The report shows there is a way out. I believe we can still bend the curve.
“People shouldn’t panic, but they should begin drastic change. Business as usual with small adjustments won’t be enough.” (Courtesy: The Guardian UK)
Writer: Jonathan Watts

 

Articles

Launch of PTF National Tennis Center

The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) has recently launched a National Tennis Center which will feature state-of-the-art facilities and leading trainers to improve tennis across the country.

In February 2019, PTF launched a national center called NTC for improving the quality of the tennis across the nation. Here’s why:
  • It will provide the highest level of modern, competitive Tennis Training, as in overseas Academies, with an ITF Level 3 Certified Head Coach, assisted by a team of competent, professional Coaches.
  • Internationally certified Physical Trainer – cum – Coach, with a vast experience in Tennis-specific Fitness Training.
  • Complete range of Physical, Mental, Technical (Bio-mechanical) & Psychological evaluations for developing personalized programs, even in a Group Environment.
  • The Best Synthetic Courts in Pakistan, offering the same Plexicushion Prestige surface as the one on which the Australian Open Grand Slam is played.
  • Safe & secure premises, where international professional & junior events have been held.
  • On-site meals and refreshments at special rates.
  • Onsite accommodation for players at highly discounted rates.
  • Professional Training for High Performance, Intermediate, Beginner and 10 Under categories, male and female players.
  • 10 Under programs will be conducted using modified courts and equipment to enhance the learning & development of children.
  • Programs are designed for 3 sessions per day; 2 sessions for some groups.
A typical training day will have:
  • Session 1: covering technical, tactical as well as on-court psychological & physical development; 2.5 hours.
  • Session 2: will have match simulations and singles & doubles match play; 2.5 hours;
  • Session 3: will be for physical conditioning; 1-1.5 hour(s);
Player Registration Form may be downloaded from: http://www.paktenfed.com.pk (Development Programs -> NTC Registration form for players)
For further information on registration, charges, programs, please contact:
Mr. Asim Shafik, National Development Director – PTF & Head Coach – NTC, at: 051-2624685 – 0300-8506069.
Writer: Mahvish Chishtie
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