Study finds high antibiotics level in the Yamuna, three other rivers
The study, ‘Menace of Antibiotic Pollution in Indian Rivers’, which examined antibiotic levels in 11 rivers across the country, also found similarly high antibiotic levels in three other rivers -- Gomti (Lucknow), Zuari (Goa) and Cooum (Chennai).
High amounts of pharmaceutical antibiotics have been found in the Yamuna, posing a serious threat to aquatic life and human health, and possibly increasing antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a study carried out by NGO Toxics Link has found.
The study, ‘Menace of Antibiotic Pollution in Indian Rivers’, which examined antibiotic levels in 11 rivers across the country, also found similarly high antibiotic levels in three other rivers -- Gomti (Lucknow), Zuari (Goa) and Cooum (Chennai). The study found the presence of three antibiotics in these rivers -- Ofloxacin, Sulfamethoxazole and Norfloxacin, all of which were roughly two-five times higher than the draft notification limits proposed by the Union environment ministry.
The samples analysed by the NGO detected found Ofloxacin (0.71 µg/L) and Sulfamethoxazole (0.2 µg/L) in the Yamuna; Norfloxacin (0.93 µg/L) in the Zuari river; and Ofloxacin (0.54 µg/L) in both Gomti and Cooum. As per a draft notification by the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC), Ofloxacin and Norfloxacin have a safe limit up to 0.2 μg/L, whereas for Sulfamethoxazole, it is 0.24 μg/L. NGO officials said though sulfamethoxazole isn’t above the safe limit in the Yamuna, the figure is still high.
The other rivers part of the study, where these antibiotics were either not found or were within permissible limits, are Sabarmati river (Ahmedabad), Mahanadi (Bhubhaneshwar), Kali (Karwar), Sarsada (Visakhapatnam), Ganga (Haridwar), Gar Ganga (Lucknow) and Patalganga (near Mumbai).
“Antibiotics are important life-saving medicines and play a key role in the well-being of human health. However, indiscriminate use and lack of regulatory standards for antibiotics in effluents from pharmaceutical industries are contributing to the rise of antibiotic pollution in rivers. This rising trend of antibiotic pollution poses a serious threat to ecology and human health which can have far reaching consequences such as the development of antimicrobial resistance,” said Piyush Mohapatra, senior programme coordinator at Toxics Link, adding that Indian rivers were particularly prone to getting polluted by antibiotics, owing to the large production and consumption of these antibiotics across the country.
AMR is when microbes evolve to develop systems to protect against the effect of antimicrobial medicines.
While Ciprofloxacin and Norfloxacin were also found to be present in the Yamuna, the study states their levels were found to be within the ‘permissible’ limits of 0.02 and 0.2 (μg/L) respectively.
Globally, the World Health Organization has already declared AMR as one of the top 10 global public health threats that could impact humanity. In 2017, the Union ministry of health and family welfare also came up with the National Action Plan for containing AMR and the MoEFCC also came up with draft standards for 121 antibiotic residues in treated effluents from the pharmaceutical industry in 2020. The latter is yet to be notified.
“Interestingly, the locations where antibiotic residues were detected, are not necessarily in close proximity to major pharmaceutical industrial hubs. Therefore, the study raises concerns on the sources of antibiotic residues into these rivers which can be from both treated as well as untreated sewage,” said Satish Sinha, associate director at Toxics Link, asking stakeholders to look into potential sources.