More wastewater treatment to keep drugs out of food

Additional treatment of wastewater from drug plants may go a long way toward minimizing the uptake of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) by plants.

Researchers writing in Chemistry Today suggest that discharge from pharma plants should be treated separately using advanced wastewater treatment technologies instead of being allowed to mix with municipal wastewater to be treated at municipal plants.

"Pharmaceutical manufacturers who are the ultimate origins [sic] of PPCPs should realize the potential environmental risks associated with those compounds and act proactively to reduce the emission from manufacture processes," write researchers from the China University of Geosciences and the University of Toledo. They state that the topic requires more investigation. Their conclusions are based on examination of previous studies.

One of those studies suggests that current manufacturing practices can yield pharma concentrations one to three orders of magnitude higher than those found in municipal effluents.

Many drugmakers are well aware of the issue and are working to minimize harmful elements in discharge from their plants. Sustainability reports from big pharma companies often cover the topic, but so far not as consistently as the more commonly reported metrics of greenhouse gas emissions and energy and water use, as our "12 Greenest Biopharma Companies" report shows.

Acknowledging their lack of hard data, the authors suggest that environmental and ecological risks be "fully considered and evaluated" during drug development. New drugs should be easily biodegradable and pose minimal risks to people and ecosystems.

- here's the report

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