While media is full of reports concerning all types of toxic substances in the air, in waters and on the ground, a team of researchers warns that amphetamine pollution is becoming an issue in the urban streams of Baltimore, Maryland.
The amphetamine pollution in some sites can be high enough to alter the aquatic food web. The scientists discovered that the water contains pharmaceutical as well as illicit drug components.
The author of the study says that the drugs in the water come from manufacturing processes, improper disposal, and human consumption and excretion.
The research also follows how amphetamine exposure influences the aquatic plants and animals.
The monitoring focused on six streams in the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland. The research team discovered traces of numerous drugs which included amphetamine. The urban streams had a higher concentration of illicit drugs than the other rivers.
The fieldwork took place in Gwynns Falls watershed, which is involved in the Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long-Term Ecological Research program, and in the Oregon Ridge watershed.
After taking samples from the streams, the researchers did an experiment using an artificial stream to determine how the amphetamine pollution affects the aquatic life.
Amphetamine has been increasingly used in treating conditions such as the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Methamphetamine, cocaine, and ecstasy had been used illicitly.
The researchers believe that the amphetamine pollution is on the rise on a global level. However, the world faces a lack of information concerning the effects of such highly addictive and biologically active drugs have on the aquatic life.
The results of the monitoring showed that in streams with a high amphetamine concentration, the biofilm growth was suppressed. Moreover, the composition of diatom and bacterial communities was changed, and the aquatic insects came out earlier than they were supposed to.
The concentration of amphetamine is high enough to impact the structure and the function of the ecosystem.
The author of the study highlights the fact that the wastewater infrastructure is aging, and the pharmaceutical and illicit drug use is up on a rise. In these conditions, it is important to understand and prevent the impact on freshwater resources.
The researchers recommend the continuation of monitoring in urban and suburban streams, which will help identify the areas which need protection. Ultimately, the solution would be to implement innovative ways of managing wastewater.
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