Medicinal drugs have polluted Scotland’s waterways in breach of safety levels more than 2,300 times over seven years, according to data released by the Scottish Government’s environment watchdog.
Ponds, streams, rivers and firths across the country have been contaminated with 26 drugs, including ibuprofen, oestrogen, antibiotics, painkillers, anti-depressants, anaesthetics and caffeine. In the worst cases, recorded concentrations were hundreds or thousands of times higher than those deemed safe.
According to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), drug pollution can damage and kill wildlife by interfering with growth, behaviour and reproduction. It can also endanger human health by helping viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites to develop resistance to drugs.
Experts and environmentalists have warned of the “potentially serious” impacts of the pollution. Action is “urgently needed” to cut the contamination and reduce the risks, they said.
The drugs find their way into sewers from people going to the toilet after taking them, or flushing them away unused. Sewage treatment “has not been designed to remove such pollutants,” Sepa said — so they end up being discharged into waterways.