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Rx for Action

A blog devoted to helping people find local medicine take-back programs and highlighting current research findings and pending legislation.

Unexpected PPCP findings in a rural Indiana stream

Researchers from Ball State University and the U.S. Geological Survey studied Sugar Creek in central Indiana for a year to document the abundance and transport of human and veterinary pharmaceuticals. Given that 18 swine and cattle concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are within close proximity to the stream, they were not shocked to discover that lincomycin and sulfamethazine, two antibiotics used regularly at the CAFOs, were found in measurable quantities in the water. In fact, concentrations of these two pharmaceuticals were about 30% higher in a stretch of the creek immediately adjacent to one of the swine CAFOs, just as they had predicted.

What was unexpected was the lack of variation in concentration of the veterinary antibiotics over time. The researchers had hypothesized that there would be more antibiotics in the creek in the fall, following manure applications to surrounding fields. Instead, they found that the highest concentrations occurred in July. Though the veterinary pharmaceuticals did not display significant temporal variation, human pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) did. Caffeine was measured in significantly higher concentrations in the winter, while DEET, the active ingredient in many insect repellents, was more abundant in the summer.

Also unexpected was that concentrations of human PPCPs were in the same range as those documented in streams in urban watersheds, despite the fact that no wastewater treatment plant effluent is discharged into Sugar Creek. The scientists pointed to septic systems as the likely source for the human PPCPs, and noted that the role of these systems as nonpoint sources of PPCP pollution needs to be better quantified.

Bernot, M.J., L. Smith, and J. Frey. 2013. Human and veterinary pharmaceutical abundance and transport in a rural central Indiana stream influenced by confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Science of the Total Environment 445-446:219-230.

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Posted by Laura Kammin at 11:25AM on 5/14/2013
Categories: Latest Research