Antibiotics Contaminating The Environment

A couple of years ago I published an article titled “Old Medication And The Environment” that discussed the importance of disposing of unused/expired medication properly. 

I mentioned at that time not a lot was known about the environmental and human health impact of the presence of pharmaceuticals in waterways.

Now we know a little more and the news isn’t good.

Recent research has found antibiotic pollution in the environment is contributing to increasingly antibiotic resistant bacteria.

An article reporting on the findings on WebMD mentions “selective pressure”; basically survival of the fittest – with the “fittest” bacteria surviving exposure to these medications passing on their antibiotic resistant attributes when they replicate.

Aside from overuse in humans and disposal issues, antibiotics are also widely utilized in agriculture. Sometimes their use is to deal with cramming so many animals so closely together, in other applications they are used to accelerate growth; a practice that will be coming to an end in the USA soon.

It wasn’t so long ago when it was common for people to die from cuts and scratches that became infected or from a sore throat (strep throat). In some parts of the world where antibiotics aren’t available, this is still the case.

Imagine a return to that situation globally if antibiotics stopped working. It’s a world that may not be all that far away. There are already some bacteria resistant to most antibiotics, such as MRSA. MRSA refers to strains of Staphylococcus aureus resistant to penicillins and cephalosporins.

The responsible disposal of old medication has gone beyond what some would view as warm and fuzzy green concepts of happy ducks and healthy rabbits frolicking in meadows. It’s now a very serious matter as time is needed to develop new drugs.

While old antibiotics flushed down the toilet or the kitchen sink are only one source of this pollution entering the environment, all of us can do something about it.

It’s a little unsettling to think that right at this moment, somewhere in the world; somebody might be flushing pills that play a role in giving rise to a strain of bacteria which consequently knocks out a chunk of the human race. 

Every epidemic has a ground zero.