By AMIA MCDONALD, age 11
There is an ongoing global wildlife crisis, and according to new research from the Guardian, one hidden cause may be pharmaceuticals that enter the environment through human and animal waste. Dr. Jessica Couch, senior scientist at Genentech, a biotechnology company, told IndyKids, “Pharmaceutical drugs are potent chemicals that have been designed to treat people and animals with various diseases. However, because they are so potent, they can also have a negative impact on ecosystems.”
Researchers have found that many freshwater fish and amphibians were wiped out in the past 40 years partly because of the discharge of drugs. Although many pharmaceuticals are designed to help people, some cause harm to other living things.
Birth control pills have caused a decrease in fathead minnows in lakes which then caused a decline in trout that eat minnows. Amphibians have also been negatively affected by the entrance of pharmaceutical contamination. In all, populations of freshwater animals such as fish and amphibians have gone down 75 percent since 1970. Pharmaceuticals have not only contaminated waters, but land as well, since much of the waste has contaminated soil used to fertilize farmland. This has caused farmland ecosystems to decline as well.
According to Dr. Couch, “It is our responsibility to carefully monitor and manage the disposition of these chemicals in order to minimize disruption of wildlife biology.”
Pharmaceuticals: Drugs used for medicine
Ecosystem: A community of living things interacting with their physical surroundings, such as a forest, a farm or a lake.