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Canadian study suggests drug seepage from hog farms not an environmental problem


March 6, 2008
By Manure Manager

New research from the University
of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, is suggesting that environmental
contamination from antibiotics does not pose appreciable risks to soil
and aquatic organisms.

New research from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, is suggesting that environmental contamination from antibiotics does not pose appreciable risks to soil and aquatic organisms.

Dr. Paul Sibley, from the university’s Department of Environmental Biology, and Dr. Keith Solomon, from the University of Guelph’s Centre for Toxicology, recently completed six years of research examining the use of pharmaceuticals in the Canadian hog and cattle industry. The pair determined that the pharmaceuticals represent negligible environmental risk if used as instructed.

During their research, Dr. Sibley and Dr. Solomon simulated real-life scenarios in the laboratory and field to study pharmaceutical toxicity. They applied pharmaceuticals directly to soil and water to simulate field exposure in a worst-case scenario. According to the researchers, in toxicity, safety (or risk) is often measured as the difference between what is found in the environment and what the pharmaceutical’s toxicity is known to be.

In most experiments, the researchers found that the toxicity effects of pharmaceuticals were in the milligram to gram per liter range, significantly higher than the nanogram to microgram per liter range typically detected in soil and water for pharmaceuticals. According to the researchers, the long duration of some of the studies helped to accurately assess changes in contamination levels and toxicity over time, ultimately leading to a stronger conclusion that supports environmental safety.

“It’s comforting to know that levels of antibiotics in the environment don’t seem to be posing a problem,” says Dr. Sibley. “We’ve tested aquatic, vertebrate, fish and soil communities, and the evidence clearly indicates little cause for concern.”


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