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Date: March 22, 2015
Source: American Chemical Society
Chlorine, a disinfectant commonly used in most wastewater treatment plants, may be failing to completely eliminate pharmaceuticals from wastes. As a result, trace levels of these substances get discharged from the plants to the nation's waterways. And now, scientists are reporting preliminary studies that show chlorine treatment may encourage the formation of new, unknown antibiotics that could also enter the environment, potentially contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
The research, which will be presented today at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), suggests that a re-evaluation of wastewater treatment and disinfection practices is needed.
"Pharmaceuticals that get out into the environment can harm aquatic life, making them react slowly in the wild and disrupting their hormone systems," notes Olya Keen, Ph.D. She adds that increased antibiotic exposure, even at low levels in the environment, can lead to development of antibiotic-resistant microbes and a general weakening of antibiotics' abilities to fight bacterial infections in humans.
"Treated wastewater is one of the major sources of pharmaceuticals and antibiotics in the environment," says Keen. "Wastewater treatment facilities were not designed to remove these drugs. The molecules are typically very stable and do not easily get biodegraded. Instead, most just pass through the treatment facility and into the aquatic environment."
But besides failing to remove all drugs from wastewater, sewage treatment facilities using chlorine may have the unintended consequences of encouraging the formation of other antibiotics in the ...click here to continue.
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