Rivers: a cocktail of second-hand drugs

Researchers at Milan’s Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research (www.marionegri.it) have spent the last several years analysing the contents of the northern Italian rivers and water systems - and what they have found has not been pleasant.

Their main interest has been in the pharmaceutical drugs which pass through their users’ bodies and then out into the river and water systems.

In one experiment, published in The Lancet in 2000, they found that the beta-blocker atenolol, the ulcer treatment ranitidine and the asthma drug salbutamol were all present in an unchanged form in drinking water in Milan, Lodi and Varese as well as in the rivers Po, Lambro and Adda.

A more recent study concentrated on the recreational drug cocaine. With the use of some rather clever technology they discovered that the Po was carrying the equivalent of around 4kg of cocaine each day - which, according to the scientists' calculations, suggests that for every 1,000 people between the ages of 15 and 34 living in the Po basin 27 must be taking a dose of 100mg of cocaine each day - approximately four times the official estimate.

The Negri Institute's scientists suggest that the fact that several thousand tons of medically active substances sneak into our rivers with largely unknown environmental consequences should be a matter for global concern.

It also raises a whole raft of questions - such as whether antibiotics circulating this way contribute to bacterial resistance. What these drugs do to people who are already chemically sensitive is, of course, a whole other question which has not been addressed at all.

Courtesy of the FT Magazine (Aug 20/21 05) and with thanks to Helen Sher who showed us this article when we were discussing her water therapy treatments with her. Click here for article.

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First Published September 2006


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