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Pharmaceutical manufacturers today are directing a lot of their discharge into the wastewater treatment plants in the vicinity. These discharges substantially increase the concentration of drugs in the water. The treatment plants were designed to reduce solids and bacteria, not to deal with complex compounds. On examining the drug loads sent to treatment plants, a large variety of drugs were revealed with substantially higher concentration levels. Among those were anti-fungal drugs, also found at levels hundreds of times higher at a treatment plant near a pharmaceutical manufacturer. The discovery of anti-histamines, diabetic medication, muscle relaxants, blood pressure drugs, insomnia drugs, anti-seizure medicines, and anti-inflammatory elements in high concentrations within the pharmaceutical discharge has further added to the problem. However, the consequences on aquatic and human health due to these discharges are still not fully understood.
Scientists are still trying to comprehend the effect of pharmaceutical drugs on the environment. The mixes of pharmaceuticals have previously been known to disrupt the endocrine system of fish, altering their growth, reproduction, and liver sizes. Some labs keep drug-tainted water in the treatment process to help break down and decrease the number of emerging contaminants in the water. The use of microorganisms helps in modifying, absorbing, and biodegrading nutrients and organic material in wastewater gradually over a period of time. However, this longer retention time presents a challenge to the quick, efficient operation of treatment plants that cities heavily depend on. Some treatment plants use ultraviolet light to disinfect water—a process quite fast and effective for pharmaceuticals—but it consumes a lot of energy. With money being an issue, it would take a massive investment to optimize the processes for tackling and solving these rising contamination issues across the globe.