LARGE quantities of illicit and prescription drugs are being flushed down toilets. And they are starting to risk people’s health, a UniSA study has found.
The authors have warned there is no policy on the safe disposal of the drugs into treated wastewater, surface water, drinking water, or the air; yet the residual drugs are making their way back into innocent victims from the environment and human food chain.
Researcher Dr Raktim Pal said as drug use increased, more drugs and their ingredients were being flushed in human waste, or down sinks and other drains into the environment via the illegal dumping of drug-lab chemicals.
“Contamination by illicit drug residues at very low concentrations appears to be widespread in populated areas (including SA), with potential risks for human health and the environment,” he said.
“Although the environmental concentrations are not very high, they can potentially im-pact the human health and ecosystem functioning.”
Although treated effluent is not consumed by people, it does re-enter the water system through run-off during wet weather, landfill seepage and aquifer recharge, Dr Pal said.
Dr Pal said there were many ways the drugs in the environment could be taken up by innocent people and the effects could be similar to the long-term health effects of drug abuse.