A scientist has revealed a common mistake people inadvertently make with out of date medication.
Dr Erinn Richmond, a freshwater ecologist with the Monash Water Studies Centre told Yahoo7 that people flushing medication down the toilet could be affecting the health of the iconic platypus.
A study released in ‘Nature Communications’ on Wednesday found over 69 different pharmaceuticals in the tissues of aquatic insects in six streams near Melbourne.
It found that platypuses, which consume these insects, could be consuming over half a human dose of antidepressants a day.
“A lot of people don’t even realise that this is a problem,” Dr Richmond said.
“Whenever we take, for example, a Panadol, that whole amount of that drug might not always be used within our system.
“We excrete what’s left in our urine and it ends up in our wastewater treatment facilities.”
The dangers of flushing tablets down the toilet
Dr Richmond said people should refrain from flushing unused medication down the toilet, as this can go into waterways.
“What we can be mindful of in the home is just how we dispose of our leftover medication, or the ones that are past their use-by dates,” she said.
“A lot of people might flush these down the toilet, but that’s not the way to go.”
Dr Richmond provided tips on how to properly get rid of out of date and unused medication.
“The best way is to take them to your pharmacist and they can then dispose of them safely,” Dr Richmond said.
“If people live in more rural areas, or if their home has a septic tank or septic system.
“Maintain that system to make sure there’s no leaks.”
Study finds platypuses ingesting antidepressants
The study looked at six streams near Melbourne and examined the tissues of aquatic insects and riparian spiders.
“What we found was that wastewater is a primary source of pharmaceutical contamination in streams,” Dr Richmond said.
“We were able to detect up to 69 different pharmaceuticals within these insects.”
Researchers found that platypuses, who feast on aquatic insects, could be consuming over half a human dose of antidepressants daily.
“What we’re actually finding is that platypuses were essentially consuming various portions of human doses,” Dr Richmond said.
“By eating these insects, they were essentially exposed to over 50 per cent of a human dose of antidepressants.
“The question that everyone asks is are these platypuses much happier? And unfortunately, we don’t know the answer to that.”
Presently, it is not known how these human drugs affect platypuses. However, a Swedish study found that some fish exposed to antidepressants acted more boldly.