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Rampant overuse of ibuprofen leaves drug contaminating rivers and affecting fish health


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(NaturalNews) Prolific use of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) ibuprofen is contaminating rivers and poisoning fish, according to a multi-center study published in the journal Environment International.

The study was led by a researcher from the University of York's Environment Department and involved other researchers from F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., and the United Kingdom's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and Food and Environment Research Agency.

"The results of our research show that we should be paying much closer attention to the environmental impacts of drugs such as ibuprofen which are freely available in supermarkets, chemists and elsewhere," researcher Alistair Boxall said.

Ibuprofen is commonly marketed under trade names including Advil, Genpril, IBU, Midol, Motrin and Nuprin. It is closely related to other NSAIDs such as ketoprofen and naproxen (Aleve), and is similar to aspirin in some regards.

Half of rivers threatened

It has been well established that, when people take pharmaceutical drugs, they later excrete both metabolized and non-metabolized forms of the drugs back into the environment through their urine. These drugs can then act on fish or other aquatic lifeforms.

Using a new computer modeling approach, the researchers estimated the levels of 12 pharmaceutical drugs in 3,112 stretches of river across the United Kingdom. The rivers were receiving urinary input from a total of 21 million people.

The new model used data inputs including rates of over-the-counter and prescription drug use, rates of non-use of prescribed drugs, effectiveness of different wastewater treatment technologies at removing pharmaceutical compounds and individual differences in drug metabolism.

"When we compared the results of our modelling with available monitoring data for pharmaceuticals in the UK, we were delighted at the close agreement between the modelled and measured data," researcher Richard Williams said.

Most of the chemical studied were found to pose a low risk to aquatic life. Ibuprofen, in contrast, was found to pose a high risk of adverse effects to aquatic life in nearly half of the river segments studied.

Also risky to human health

Although commonly and even casually used, ibuprofen is a pharmaceutical drug and carries a risk of severe side effects. The drug is particularly risky in those with heart, digestive or kidney problems.

Ibuprofen has been linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, especially when used over the long term. It has also been shown to induce bleeding, perforation and other damage in the stomach and intestines, often without any warning.

The drug has been shown to impair kidney function in some people, producing a wide variety of kidney-related side effects. One study found that people who consumed 5,000 or more NSAID-containing pills over the course of their lifetimes were significantly more likely to suffer from end-stage renal disease.

Because NSAIDs are metabolized by the kidneys (as are nearly all pharmaceuticals), the risk of side effects is significantly greater in people with impaired kidney function.

Other potentially serious side effects of ibuprofen include swelling or rapid weight gain; headache, sore throat and fever with a severe skin rash that includes blistering and peeling; numbness, pain, muscle weakness, severe tingling or bruising; and severe headache with neck stiffness, chills, increased light sensitivity and sometimes convulsions.

Fortunately, there are many natural alternatives to ibuprofen. Studies have shown that ginger, Chinese skullcap and St. John's wort are all as effective as or more effective than ibuprofen at reducing pain. Likewise, compounds extracted from sweet cherries, raspberries, holy basil and olive oil have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties comparable to those of the drug. Natural remedies that combine ibuprofen's painkilling and anti-inflammatory effects include Panax ginseng, omega-3 fatty acids and arnica (applied topically).

Although ibuprofen is commonly used to reduce fevers, fever is actually an important immune response and in most cases should not be artificially lowered.

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