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Action against pharma pollution

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Issues related to health


Source: DTE

 Direction: The article discusses pharma/drug pollution, its causes, effect and the way ahead to reduce it.

 Context: According to a paper published in the journal The Lancet, pharmaceutical pollution is an overlooked but urgent issue that needs coordinated action from across the pharmaceutical, healthcare and environmental sectors.

About drug or pharmaceutical pollution:

  • It is mainly a form of water pollution, caused by pharmaceutical drugs and their molecules which reach the aquatic environment (groundwater, rivers, lakes, and oceans) through wastewater.
  • It is now detected in waters throughout the world and its causes include –
    • Effluents from pharmaceutical manufacturing,
    • Ageing infrastructure (such as water treatment plants which cannot filter our too small molecules),
    • Sewage overflows (drugs in urine and excreta) and
    • Agricultural runoff (antibiotic use in livestock).


  • On human health: For example, Endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs) (e.g. endosulfan) directly influence sex hormones.
  • On aquatic life: A suspected contributor in fish kills, amphibian die-offs, etc.

Key highlights of The Lancet study:

  • Almost 43% of the world’s rivers are contaminated with active pharmaceutical ingredients in concentrations that can have disastrous ramifications on health.
  • Medicines are a vital part of the human healthcare system, so there is a need to find ways to use them without poisoning the environment.


Way ahead:

  • Returning unused drugs to pharmacies rather than disposing of them down the sink or toilet.
  • The domestic pharmaceutical industry needs to take the lead in limiting antibiotic pollution.
  • Upgrading existing water treatment plants to use advanced oxidation processes that can remove small molecules.

Conclusion: Societal-wide action on reducing pharmaceutical pollution from human healthcare is the need of the hour.


Insta Links:

India: Pharmacy of World


Mains Links:

Q. How does the pharma industry pollute the environment and what are the effects of this pollution? Examine. (200 Words)