The influence of hormone medications, produced by many major pharmaceutical companies, has been noted in both freshwater and marine fish across Europe. According to Tyler and Jobling (2008), artificial oestrogen hormones, such as the contraceptive pill, are inducing feminisation in many fish species.
Impacts of Medications on Marine Species
With a majority female population, reproductive success of the species decreases, which puts additional pressures on stocks for the fisheries industry, as well as reduction in biological diversity. Antibiotics and other drugs can also be an issue in the marine environment, not only as causes of direct mortality for the organisms exposed to the contaminants, but for anything that feeds on these creatures, such as humans. These compounds tend to bio-accumulate, meaning the substance cannot be removed from the body and so concentration continues to increase with exposure. Dangerous chemicals can build up in the flesh of fish and then be digested by human beings, causing serious, and even life threatening, illnesses (Halling-Sorensen et al., 1998). Rather than the companies, themselves, directly dumping (although this has been reported) the major cause for pharmaceutical products entering the water system is through incorrect drug disposal by the general public (Jones et al., 2001; Islam et al., 2010). Expired or excess tablets and medications, are often poured down sinks, or flushed for “safety”, but in fact are causing more harm than good. Only with correct drug disposal can this issue be resolved.
Dispose of Unused Medicines Properly (D.U.M.P)
Concern for the correct disposal of medicines lead to the creation of the DUMP (Disposal of Unused Medicines Properly) campaign by the HSE with support from over 250 pharmacies across Cork and Kerry. This campaign has been running successfully since 2007 with its most recent collections organised in October 2016. DUMP ‘is a free collection service available in pharmacies throughout Cork and Kerry for the safe disposal of unused or out of date, prescription or over-the-counter medicines’ (www1). To learn more about the DUMP campaign read the following document or contact your local pharmacist.