An­tibi­otics in wa­ter pose ‘in­di­rect health risk’

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By WU WENCONG wuwen­cong@chi­

High lev­els of an­tibi­otics are pol­lut­ing China’s sur­face wa­ter, pos­ing risks to the ecosys­tem and hu­man health, a re­cent re­view of re­search has found.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­view, 159 types of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and per­sonal-care prod­ucts have been dis­cov­ered in the coun­try’s wa­ter, 68 of which are an­tibi­otics.

The con­cen­tra­tion and de­tec­tion of an­tibi­otics far ex­ceeds those in Western coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to the re­view, which was con­ducted by six re­searchers from East China Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, Tongji Univer­sity and Ts­inghua Univer­sity and pub­lished on the lat­est ver­sion of the Chi­nese Sci­ence Bul­letin.

It said the de­tec­tion fre­quency of some an­tibi­otics even reached 100 per­cent in sev­eral main rivers, such as the Pearl River in south­ern China and the Huangpu River in east­ern China.

Con­cen­tra­tions some­times hit hun­dreds of nanograms per liter, while fig­ures in de­vel­oped coun­tries are be­low 20 nanograms per liter.

“An­tibi­otics bear an eco­log­i­cal risk to aquatic or­gan­isms, but they do not harm hu­mans di­rectly,” said Zhao Jin­dong, head of the hy­dro­bi­ol­ogy in­sti­tute at the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ences. “But since they are used to kill bac­te­ria, if they ex­ist in the en­vi­ron­ment in a large amount, micro­organ­isms will be­come re­sis­tant to the an­tibi­otics, and when we need them to kill bac­te­ria, they may no longer work.”

He said the ma­jor rea­son for the ex­ces­sive amount of an­tibi­otics in the en­vi­ron­ment is do­mes­tic sewage.

Pre­vi­ous re­search showed that China is among the coun­tries with the most se­ri­ous overuse of an­tibi­otics. An­tibi­otics con­trib­ute to 70 per­cent of the coun­try’s drug pro­duc­tion. In Western coun­tries, the pro­por­tion is about 30 per­cent.

Fu Tao, di­rec­tor of Ts­inghua Univer­sity’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion In­dus­try Re­search Cen­ter, said other sources of an­tibi­otics in the en­vi­ron­ment in­clude sewage dis­charge by phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies and live­stock breed­ing.

“An­tibi­otics in wa­ter can only be re­moved by deep pro­cess­ing, which re­quires the use of ozone and bio-mem­branes, but most water­works in China are not equipped with such fa­cil­i­ties, not to men­tion the sewage works,” said Fu.

Stud­ies of an­tibi­otics in China lag far be­hind those of Europe and the US, es­pe­cially with the huge amount of pro­duc­tion and use, the re­search found.

The sit­u­a­tion may ease in the fu­ture with the new En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Law, passed on April 24, said Fu.

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