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Drug waste in SA's drinking water raises health concerns

29 September 2015 12:12 PM

Recent studies suggest that South Africans are unwittingly ingesting drug waste contained in tap water, raising concerns about health risks they may be exposed to.

Traces of antiretrovirals, anti-epileptic drugs, antibiotics and antidepressants are allegedly lingering in South African tap water.

(Also read our article: Why South Africa could be edging towards a water crisis)

Compounds of these drugs have been found in several studies on water sources around South Africa between 2013 and June 2015.

Professor Hugh Patterton, chief researcher at Stellenbosch University, said the compounds and concentration levels in tap water have changed over the years, creating emerging health concerns for consumers.

Patterton and his team detected 34 pharmaceuticals and pesticides present in South Africa’s drinking water.

Listen to the full conversation from The Redi Tlhabi Show:

He said the compounds are present at low concentrations, but over periods as long as 10 or 20 years - making it difficult to asses the long-term impact of low-level exposure.

Contaminants of emerging concern are compounds that we previously did not identify or understand the health impact of.

Professor Hugh Patterton, chief researcher at Stellenbosch University

The study identifies the most significant new substances in drinking water quality that could be a concern to human health in the country.

Titled “A survey of contaminants of emerging concern in drinking water in South Africa”, the study is published in the latest edition of the South African Journal of Science.

According to Patterton, pharmaceutical companies are not the only ones responsible for the presence of drug waste in tap water.

South African households contribute to the emerging concern with their hygiene practices and in the way they they dispose of drugs and pesticides.

Some listeners responded to the conversation via Twittter:

29 September 2015 12:12 PM

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