Manufacturing Facilities Release Pharmaceuticals to the Environment
Editors: This scientific paper is published in Environmental Science and Technology. The paper, an accompanying USGS data report, and related information are available online.
Pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities can be a significant source of pharmaceuticals to surface waters, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducted in cooperation with the State of New York.
Outflow from two wastewater treatment plants in New York that receive more than 20 percent of their wastewater from pharmaceutical facilities had concentrations of pharmaceuticals that were 10 to 1000 times higher than outflows from 24 plants nationwide that do not receive wastewater from pharmaceutical manufacturers.
"This is the first study in the U.S. to identify pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities as a significant source of pharmaceuticals to the environment," said Matthew C. Larsen, USGS Associate Director for Water. "The USGS is working with water utilities to evaluate alternative water treatment technologies with the goal of reducing the release of pharmaceuticals and other emerging contaminants to the environment."
Maximum concentrations in outflows from the two wastewater treatment plants in New York were:
• 3,800 parts per billion (ppb) of metaxalone (a muscle relaxant)
• 1,700 ppb of oxycodone (an opioid prescribed for pain relief)
• Greater than 400 ppb of methadone (an opioid prescribed for pain relief and drug withdrawal)
• 160 ppb of butalbital (a barbiturate)
• Greater than 40 ppb of phendimetrazine (a stimulant prescribed for obesity) and carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant)
• 3.9 ppb diazepam (an anti-anxiety medication)
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