The mixed-bag that is modern pharmaceuticals has found its way into the water supplies of Patancheru, India, in fabulous quantities. Says chemist Klaus Kuemmerer in an MSNBC report, “If you just swallow a few gasps of water, you’re treated for everything.” The water is a cocktail of 21 different active ingredients used in generic drugs to treat, “hypertension, heart disease, liver ailments, depression, ulcers, gonorrhea . . .”
The problem, of course, is not only that daily consumption of this special punch is measurably bad for the Patancheru ecosystem (humans included), but it also increases the rate at which bacteria will evolve into untreatable forms. So here’s another one for the Great American Freakout, transom–the pharmaceutical system is doing its darndest to give us super-bugs. Enough of the antibiotic cyprofloxin is daily drained into this Indian water system to treat a city of 90,000.
It is true that India’s chemical dumping regulations are more lax than they are in countries in the U.S., but the plants that produce generics flourish because of the inflated prices of drugs in the U.S.A. The discovery of drugs in the Indian water (at 150 times the levels of U.S. water sources) raises old questions of how to account for the unintended consequences of scientific advances. Is the answer increased regulation? Acceptance that there will always be harmful fallout? Or should we stop “trying to fight nature” altogether? Should we burn Alexander Flemming in effigy?
(thanks to the excellent architect-cultural-environmental BLDGBLOG for turning me on to this story).