Select Page


DATE: November 6, 2018

SNIP: Dozens of pharmaceutical drugs have been detected in aquatic Australian wildlife—a telltale sign that human medications are seeping into the environment from wastewater plants.

The insidious effects of prescription drugs on nature’s waterways are relatively understudied. But research has demonstrated that medications excreted in human urine, feces, and bathwater can migrate from sewers into oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams.

Monash University research fellow Erinn Richmond surveyed wildlife from six waterways in Australia’s greater Melbourne region. Richmond found 69 pharmaceutical drugs in aquatic insect larvae, aquatic invertebrates, and river-dwelling spiders—species somewhat low on the food-chain that serve as food for animals such as platypus, trout, and fish-eating birds.

Among the drugs found were antidepressants, beta-blockers, and anti-Parkinson’s medications.

The highest concentration of drugs came from wildlife in a stream adjacent to a wastewater treatment facility. But even more the pristine areas that Richmond tested contained low levels of pharmaceuticals.