Originally published October 30 2014
Is pharmaceutical contamination to blame for amphibian population declining 75% in 40 years?
by Julie Wilson staff writer
(NaturalNews) It seems that the world is finally waking up to the consequences of pharmaceutical pollution, a phenomenon that's single-handedly shaping our planet into an unnatural environment with grotesque repercussions.
Low-level yet active concentrations of pharmaceuticals are saturating the earth, causing ecological transformations that are poorly understood by scientists. Very little research has been performed on the effects of pharmaceutical contamination in the soil, lakes, rivers and oceans, or the wildlife that depends on those habitats.
However, current research on the impact of drug contamination has produced some pretty grim results, including significant destruction to birds and aquatic life. Just recently, Natural News reported on the 2014 Living Planet Report that documented a 52 percent decline in animal populations since 1970.
Freshwater fish struggling the most to survive
Of the 3,000 species surveyed, freshwater habitats took the biggest hit, with fish and amphibians declining by an alarming 75 percent. While the exact cause is not definitive, researchers believe that pharmaceutical pollution is a likely contributor.
Biologically active concentrations of man-made drugs are entering our environment through human excretion, animal waste, drug manufacturers, hospitals and pharmaceutical-contaminated sludge used for fertilizer.
Published in a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, the study's recent findings disclose what may be happening to our ecosystems following exposure to pharmaceutical drugs.
One concept that's important to understand is that, although many experts have denied the impacts of pharmaceutical pollution based on the fact that they're introduced in such low concentrations, these drugs are designed to have "biological actions" at low concentrations, meaning their potency in the environment is still relevant and concerning.
"With thousands of pharmaceuticals in use globally, they have the potential to have potent effects on wildlife and ecosystems," said the report's editor, Kathryn Arnold of the University of York.
"Given that populations of many species living in human-altered landscapes are declining for reasons that cannot be fully explained, we believe that it is time to explore emerging challenges," she noted, referring to pharmaceutical contamination.
Some studies have been able to definitively conclude that drug pollution is directly to blame for some species' deaths and strange, unnatural behavioral transformations in others.
For example, The Guardian that three species of vultures native to India nearly became extinct after feasting on the carcass of livestock that had been treated with the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac, which is used to treat arthritis and migraines in people. The drug's side effects include stomach and intestinal bleeding, which can be fatal, according to Drugs.com.
Pharmaceuticals have also been proven to change physical behavior as well as the biological makeup of some fish species, leading to extinction in some cases
One study showed that synthetic oestrogen used in birth control pills eliminated fathead minnows in lakes used for experiments in Ontario. The loss of the minnow contributed to other ecological disruptions including up to a 42 percnet decrease in the lake's top predator, trout, which feeds on the tiny fish. Without minnows, the insect population multiplied as their primary predator disappeared.
Because fish mate in the water, further research suggests that estrogen-containing drugs have feminized male fish and altered female-to-male ratios, as well as created intersex fish, creatures with both male and female characteristics.
Another example of man-made drugs inflicting changes in wildlife include a shift in starlings' feeding behavior, leading the birds to forage less during peak times, such as at sunrise and sunset, following exposure to low levels of the antidepressant fluoxetine.
In addition to changes in innate species behavior, the emergence of drug-resistant microorganisms is an increasingly imminent concern that could have "global consequences," said professor Joakim Larsson, of the University of Gothenburg.
While Big Pharma continues to get richer, Earth's wildlife struggle to maintain their natural processes, striving to stay alive in the wake of industrial pollution. Only through research, understanding and regulatory enforcements can we begin to reverse this critical problem before it's too late.
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