Thursday, January 1, 2015

Metformin Found in Lake Michigan

Milwaukee on the shore of Lake Michigan.
Click for photo credit.
The problem of prescription drug pollution remains one of the most concerning emerging environmental issues.  Evidence is mounting that some of the prescriptions we take pass through our bodies and enter surface and ground water after sewage treatment plants and septic systems release wastewater.

The latest piece of evidence comes from researchers at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, who found that metformin, a common diabetes drug, is the most commonly found personal care pollutant in waters in Lake Michigan near wastewater treatment plants in Milwaukee.  According to this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the levels are so high that they could disrupt the endocrine system of fish.  They also found caffeine, sulfamethoxazole, and triclosan--all common human-derived pollutants from wastewater that are not naturally found in surface waters
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Current sewage treatment plants focus largely on removing solids, nutrients, and harmful biologic materials from wastewater prior to releasing it into the environment.  However, as we see our use of pharmaceuticals increasing in our society, there will be a need to improve technology to enhance wastewater treatment to remove these and other emerging pollutants.

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