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The Great Lakes on Drugs

The Great Lakes on Drugs
August 29, 2018 Mary Ellen Geist
Photo by dtsc.ca.gov

No Regulations for proper disposal of PPCP’s

Even mussels in some bodies of water are on anti-depressants these days.

And frogs are having hormone problems.

Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

Ohio State’s Stone Laboratory, courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

At Ohio State University and Ohio Sea Grant’s Stone Laboratory at Gibraltar Island in Ohio’s Put-in-Bay, a researcher revealed the extent to which human beings’ use of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, lotions and other chemicals is cascading into sewage systems, then into bodies of water – and into fish and other wildlife that depend on lakes for drinking water and to sustain life.

They’re called PPCP’s – Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products.  After humans use them, they rinse themselves in showers or baths, or they expel them, and they wind up in sewage systems. And eventually they end up in bodies of water like the Great Lakes.

In one case, scientists discovered a frog that began changing from a male to a female after ingesting the weed killer atrazine that had contaminated its water.

In another case, a fish grew tumors after being exposed to human pharmaceuticals that had found their way into its waters.

And a handful of mussels were found to be riddled with human anti-depressants.

Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

Dr. Xiaozhen (Jen) Mou, Associate Professor in Biological Sciences at Kent State University, Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

Dr. Xiaozhen (Jen) Mou, Associate Professor in Biological Sciences at Kent State, who is studying the effects of PPCP’s in water says in some cases these chemicals have reached dangerous levels in wildlife.  PPCP’s are considered emerging contaminants. But she says there are no particular regulations that help keep these drugs and chemicals out of the Great Lakes.

Dr. Mou is embarking on a major research project with Kent State colleague Dr. Laura Leff with the department of biological sciences at Kent State funded by Ohio Sea Grant. She says they began the project in February to find out more about the prevalence of PPCP’s in Lake Erie’s water, fish and other wildlife.

Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

Dr. Jen Mou discussing the effect of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products on our environment, Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Geist

Dr. Mou plans to collect water samples from five drinking water treatment plants and one wastewater treatment plant in Northeast Ohio.  Dr. Mou and her team will look for 13 of the most common PPCPs—from acetaminophen and antibiotic sulfamethoxazole to caffeine and estrone—to try to determine the chemicals’ levels from water coming into each treatment plant and compare those levels to water samples leaving the treatment plants.

Dr. Mou says, “We want to see how efficient existing processes like biological filtration in drinking water plants are to removing PPCPs and then how much PPCP contamination actually goes in to natural environments by way of treated wastewater.” She says research like this could result in proving there’s a need to keep high levels of pharmaceuticals and chemicals ingested by humans from getting into bodies of water.

See Dr. Mou’s interview at Stone Lab here:

Featured Image: Pharmaceutical Waste, Photo by dtsc.ca.gov

2 Comments

  1. Alta Hanlon 1 year ago

    It is not necessary to use all manner of shower gels, etc. For showering, and pharmaceuticals should never be flushed down the toilet. We can be mindful of not throwing noxious things down the drain.

  2. Alex Sagady 1 year ago

    >>>>> PPCP’s are considered emerging contaminants. But she says there are no particular regulations that help keep these drugs and chemicals out of the Great Lakes.

    That statement does not apply to Michigan. Here in Michigan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has both waste disposal regulations and educational programs that address disposal of pharmaceutical wastes. Pharmaceutical wastes are “universal wastes” under MDEQ rules:

    https://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3312_4118_74618—,00.html

    Data sheet on “universal wastes”
    https://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/deq-ead-tas-univwaste_320878_7.pdf

    Universal waste rules addressing pharmaceuticals; universal wastes are hazardous wastes that receive different treatment and regulation from regular listed hazardous wastes:
    http://dmbinternet.state.mi.us/DMB/ORRDocs/AdminCode/1792_2018-012EQ_AdminCode.pdf

    See rule 228, “universal wastes” (which include pharmaceutical wastes) beginning on page 127.

    MDEQ youtube video on pharmaceutical waste disposal:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXNX0lcbWIs

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