Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Winter cold and flu season really does mean more medicine use, according to a research team from University of California, Riverside. Their investigation of five wastewater treatment plants in the summer and winter showed that not only were the presence of pain-killers like ibuprofen more common in the winter, but almost all of the 14 pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) they tested were at higher levels in the winter. Since measured summer levels of PCPPs were low, and things like laundry detergent use are not affected by winter sniffles, researchers concluded that warm temperatures led to more effective water treatment.
This study also revealed that these wastewater treatment plants were over 90% effective at removing PPCPs from water. In fact, removal rates were so good that when possible human and environmental health risks from treated water were calculated, only one substance (estrone) showed a potential for harm. Unfortunately, the same assessments for sludge, a byproduct of water treatment, showed that two personal care products occurred at high enough levels to possibly be harmful, especially if sludge was applied as a fertilizer to food crops.
Yu, Yong, L. Wu, and A.C. Chang. Seasonal variation of endocrine disrupting compounds, pharmaceuticals and personal care products in wastewater treatment plants. Science of the Total Environment 2013: 442:310-316.Written by: Corrie Layfield