USGS: Pharma facilities release contaminants

Pharma manufacturing plants have been confirmed as a "significant" source of pharmaceuticals to the environment. As a result, the U.S. Geological Survey is working with water utilities to evaluate treatment technologies to reduce the release of such contaminants to the environment.

Researchers analyzed the outflow from two types of wastewater treatment plants: those that process 20 percent or more of their volume from pharma facilities, and those that process less. They found drug concentrations 10 to 1000 times higher at the drugmaker-fed treatment plants. Researchers checked all samples for seven pharmaceuticals in all, representing some of the most frequently prescribed medications in the U.S.

The drug-plant-fed outflow analysis identified 3,800 parts per billion of the muscle relaxant metaxalone; 1,700 ppb and 400 ppb of the opioids oxycodone and methadone; and 160 ppb of the barbiturate butalbital. Outflow from the non-pharma-fed treatment plants, by contrast, had concentrations around 1 ppb.

- here's the announcement

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