NEW DELHI : Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) have discovered a high level of pharmaceutical contaminants in the Cauvery River.
“The waters of the Cauvery River are polluted with a range of emerging contaminants which include pharmaceutically active compounds, personal care products, plastics, flame retardants, heavy metals and pesticides, among others,” said IIT -Madras.
Among these, pharmaceutical contamination is particularly severe in India, which is the world’s second-largest drug-making country, he said in a statement. These drug compounds, when released even in trace amounts into water bodies, can harm humans and the ecosystem in the long run, the researchers added.
“Our observations are alarming. So far, not much is known about how pharmaceutical contaminants affect human health and the ecosystem over time. The team’s environmental risk assessment showed that pharmaceutical contaminants pose a medium to high risk to selected aquatic life forms in the river system, ”said Ligy Philip, Principal Investigator and Professor at IIT-M.
These pharmaceutical contaminants included anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and diclofenac, antihypertensives like atenolol and isoprenaline, enzyme inhibitors like perindopril, stimulants like caffeine, antidepressants like carbamazepine and antibiotics. like ciprofloxacin, IIT said in the release.
According to the IIT, a team of researchers led by Philip quantified the seasonal distribution of contaminants and emerging pollutants in the Cauvery River. The evaluation of the water quality of the river makes it possible to understand the factors that influence the distribution of contaminants and their impacts on the ecosystem.
“The IIT Madras study has shown that regular monitoring of rivers and their tributaries is essential to detect contamination from pharmaceuticals. There was also a need to modernize wastewater treatment systems to reduce the levels of emerging contaminants in receiving water bodies such as rivers. The results of this work also highlight the need for more research to assess the long-term impacts of emerging contaminants on human health and the environment, ”said IIT.
The study was carried out with joint funding from Water Technology Initiatives of the Union Government’s Department of Science and Technology and the United Kingdom’s Natural Environment Research Council.
Highlighting the research results, Philip said he and his team of researchers “have been monitoring the water quality of the Cauvery River for two years to assess the seasonal variation of emerging contaminants, especially pharmaceutically active compounds.”
He said the IIT team collected water from 22 locations along the entire stretch of the river. “We have also set up 11 sampling stations near the discharge points of partially treated or untreated wastewater and 11 locations near the water intake points of the water supply systems. The water quality of the catchment sites was also monitored, ”he said.
The research team found that water quality and contaminant levels in the Cauvery are influenced by the monsoon season. “The post-monsoon period has shown an increase in the level of various types of contaminants, including pharmaceuticals, due to reduced river flow and continued discharge of wastes from multiple sources.”
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