I grew up living in and with the environment, as did my father and my grandfather before him. I like walking in nature, to identify the different indigenous plants in the forests and fields, and know their medicinal properties which most of them have. So my father, grandfather and I have a symbiotic relationship with plants, animals and the rest of the natural world.

So it pains me whenever I read about news or watch videos on Youtube about rivers and lakes “dying” because of all the refuse we throw into these bodies of water.

So here is the thing I needed to raise in this blog post today – the growing amount of pharmaceuticals and personal care products commonly known as PPCPs in our freshwater ecosystems and the harmful effects of the presence of those PPCPs in those ecosystems (this also includes the “ecologically disrupting compounds called EcoDC in these ecosystems too!).

The conclusion that a team of scientific researchers arrived at in their recent study published in Elementa was that the more we use PPCPs in our society, the more serious is its negative impact on the environment, particularly on freshwater ecosystems.

Study Co-author and Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies Aquatic Ecologist Emma Rosi said that some 15 years ago, a pioneering study found personal care products and pharmaceuticals in 80% of sampled streams across the U.S. When they did additional research, the team found out that similar patterns of destruction were also occurring in other parts of the world.

Rosi said the majority of the identified compounds in these freshwater ecosystems were “unregulated, understudied, and considered low risk”. In a bid to understand better the ecological impact of PPCPs, Rose and her team analyzed other recent studies – and found that concentrations of PPCPs may change ecological processes and interactions, and alter relationships among organisms.

One example is a study made in 2014 that explored how fluoxetine, an antidepressant classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, prevented predator avoidance behavior among Arabian toad tadpoles, making them more vulnerable to attacks from emperor dragonfly larvae. Fluoxetine, along with another compound SSRI citalopram, was also linked to decreased algal production by as much as 29%.

Even bacteria were found to be impacted by the presence of PPCPs. The study’s researchers found two different studies about triclosan, a common anti-fungal agent, and antimicrobial, which could change the structure of bacteria and increase bacterial resistance to other antimicrobial agents.

Study Author Erinn Richmond commented that “the bottom line is that even at low doses, PPCPs have the potential to disrupt the ecology of a system, leading to broader environmental consequences.”

Although the tests done on the freshwater ecosystems determined the level of PPCPs in these, it did not establish yet how lethal the substance in the water is nor how the mixing of these substances like antihistamines to soaps and detergents impact on each other and the environment. That is a study worth doing – and hopefully soon before our aquatic resources have reached a point wherein we cannot rescue or reverse the impact anymore.

Richmond hoped that “a greater scientific understanding of this issue will lead to increased public awareness of the need to keep these compounds out of our ecosystems.”

How about you – did you notice if freshwater bodies in your area are replete with plastic and carton refuse and any other products that shouldn’t be floating there? What do you think we should do to prevent the continuous pollution of our aquatic resources? Share in the comments below!

Image by SeeBed / CC BY 2.0