One way pharmaceuticals hurt the environment is through introduction via waste—when humans take medications and then urinate or defecate, the waste products contain trace amounts of that medication that gets into the water system and is later introduced into the environment. Certain medications, such as hormones and pharmaceutical compounds, can have a big impact on animal and plant life, causing deformations and unnatural behaviors.
In addition to what has already been said, pharmaceuticals may also hurt the environment through the accidental disposal of PPCPs, or Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products. A PPCP is defined as “any product used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons or used by agribusiness to enhance growth or health of livestock.” Examples include lotions, shaving creams, verterinary medications, and illicit drugs. These products contaminate our water when humans take showers, or when medications are improperly disposed of. Although PPCPs have been found in freshwater lakes, as of yet there is no direct evidence proving that they cause harm in the human body. Many experts agree, though, that PPCPs do some ecological harm, despite the fact that not much evidence exists (as of yet) that proves PPCPs are dangerous.
Also, by promoting their products when natural and organic remedies may work equally as well, if not better, the industry is encouraging waste through production, and actually causing people to be less healthy. This, of course, is not always the case, but there are many times when, for example, drinking peppermint tea, would be better than ingesting Pepto Bismal or Tums. Unused medications also sometimes get flushed instead of thrown away properly, which in return gets into our water supplies.
I think the biggest way in which pharmaceutical companies harm the environment is with misleading information or not providing full disclosure. There are many times that a natural remedy or not doing anything will work equally as well as some pharmaceutical remedies. I do not mean that people should not seek medical care when necessary and I do not mean that people should neglect themselves or self diagnose. I also do not want to imply that anything that is “natural” is safe – many natural things are also poisonous, or can cause allergic reactions or side effects, or are not consistent in potency so they can have as many and sometimes more problems than prescribed medicine. I just think that people should try and focus on eating healthier meals, exercising more, doing yoga and meditating to help with some of the things we take medication for like, anxiety, stress, gastric upset, menstruation, menopause etc.
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