Biodegradable Pharmaceuticals: Re-Designed Drugs, Cleaner Water?
Pharmaceuticals are among the many by-products that make their way into our drinking water. In order to prevent contamination, scientists from the American Chemical Society (ACS) have developed a way to break down these drugs into harmless compounds, according to this release.
While the exact effect of active ingredients from medicines ending up in drinking water is unknown, this contamination is a major concern regarding human and wildlife health. Researchers have detected low concentrations of these substances in streams and rivers throughout the U.S. and in other countries.
Klaus Kümmerer, a professor of Sustainable Chemistry and Material Resources at Leuphana University, was one of the researchers involved in making adjustments to medicines. In order to eliminate the contaminants that the sewage treatment systems can't, the researchers made changes to a beta blocker (commonly prescribed for high blood pressure or heart problems) called propranolol. It is also a drug commonly found in sewage systems.
In order to make this drug biodegradable, the scientists made changes to its molecular structure--they made it break down more easily, while still performing its beta blocking activity. Studies showed that these new pharmaceuticals are likely not toxic like the earlier versions, although further research is still necessary.
The study findings were recently published in ACS's journal Environmental Science & Technology.
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