Study: Hudson River contains high levels of pharmaceuticals

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An alarming new study has discovered that the Hudson River contains high levels of pharmaceuticals, with some of the highest levels in Westchester and Rockland.

A new study by researchers at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, along with other organizations, has revealed that the Hudson River contains significantly high levels of 16 different types of drugs, higher than most other waterways studied, according to research co-author Dr. Andrew Juhl.

“People take medications and some of those medications get metabolized in the body and get excreted. And everything we excrete ends up in the sewage,” says Juhl.

Juhl says that sewage eventually ends up in the Hudson, and that up to 10 percent of the river's freshwater flow is made up of treated sewage.  

He says sewage treatment plants aren't designed to remove pharmaceuticals from the water, so they pass through.

Researchers say they found some of the highest amount of pharmaceuticals in the river off Piermont because a nearby sewage plant empties into the river about 300 yards south. Treated sewage attracts fish and the fish attract birds, which means a lot of wildlife is exposed to the drugs.

“The fish and shellfish that live in the Hudson are essentially always exposed to low levels of pharmaceuticals. And we just don't know what the potential impacts would be,” says Juhl.

Juhl says more research is needed to know how pharmaceuticals affect wildlife. He says there is nothing that would suggest any direct risk to humans.

Researchers say the other hotspot for high levels of pharmaceuticals is in the Hudson near Yonkers, where there is also a sewage treatment plant.

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