In 2002, a study was conducted on 139 streams in 30 states to look for micro-contaminants in waters that are
used as sources of drinking water in the United States. In 80% of these streams, pharmaceutical active
substances were identified, along with components used in personal care products (cosmetics) (Koplin et al.,
2002). Further studies found that many of these chemical substance passed through municipal wastewater
treatment plants without being degraded or removed. The result is that these compounds are being discharged
into streams, and it is alleged that these compounds are responsible for exerting adverse effects on wildlife,
including the feminization of male fish and inducing sluggish activity levels in fish; three legged amphibians
have also been observed (Koplin et al., 2002).
With a focus on the residual pharmaceuticals in the environment (PIE), it is clear that these are a direct result
of human excretion and direct disposal of medicines into the environment. In 2005, the State of Washington
averaged 8.5 prescriptions per capita with a total of 53 million being filled by retail outlets (Koplin et al., 2002).
This does not include institutional medicines prescribed in hospitals and nursing homes.
The PIE issue has nothing to do with the manufacture of pharmaceuticals as their waste is segregated with
specialized treatments for hazardous wastes and for non-hazardous wastes. Hazardous wastes will mostly go
to thermal oxidizers for destruction. Non-hazardous waste is regulated by pretreatment categorical standards
and by wastewater discharge permits, holding the manufacturing facility to strict performance standards.
Kolpin, D.W., Furlong, E.T., Meyer, M.T., Thurman, E.M., Zaugg, S.D., Barber, L.B., & Buxton, H.T. (2002).
Pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants in U.S. streams, 1999-2000: A
national reconnaissance. Environmental Science and Technology, 36(6), 1202-1211.
Using articles that you find in in your research, put the PIE issue into perspective. Do this by including relevant
discussion and analysis on the following areas:
Outline the political and societal concerns that are related to this issue.
The sources and impacts of these pharmaceutical residuals (chemical substances) being discharged into
Describe the recommendations and programs in the United States for disposing of unused medicines.
Compare these to how medicines are disposed in Europe.
Make a recommendation to EPA on how unused medicines should be disposed. Make your case for who
should pay for the disposal program: the patient, the manufacturer, or the government?
Regardless of which option you choose to write about, your final product should be a minimum of three pages
in length, not including your title page and reference page, and should be in APA style. You are required to use
a minimum two scholarly sources, which must be cited and referenced appropriately. Only one of your sources
may be your textbook (or other assigned reading source).
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