IIT Madras researchers find high levels of pharmaceutical contaminants in Cauvery

IIT Madras study finds pharmaceutically-active contaminants in river Cauvery; can be harmful for the ecosystem

IIT Madras researchers find high levels of pharmaceutical contaminants in Cauvery IIT Madras team find pharmaceutical contaminants in river Cauvery
Tamanna Tamang | Oct 7, 2021 - 4:20 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI : Indian Institute of Technology, Madras researchers have found the waters of river Cauvery polluted by a range of emerging contaminants including pharmaceutically-active compounds, personal care products, plastics, flame retardants, heavy metals, and pesticides, among many others.

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The contaminants found in river Cauvery included anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and diclofenac, anti-hypertensives such as atenolol and isoprenaline, enzyme inhibitors like perindopril, stimulants like caffeine, antidepressants such as carbamazepine, and antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin. The researchers pointed out that even minuscule amounts of these drugs into water bodies can be harmful for human beings and the ecosystem in the long run. The river water was also contaminated by the presence of metals such as arsenic, zinc, chromium, lead and nickel.

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The team that studied the factors influencing the distribution of contaminants and their impacts on the ecosystem was led by Ligy Philip, department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras. The study noted that it is essential to regularly monitor rivers and their tributaries for contamination by pharmaceutical products.

This study was jointly funded by Water Technology Initiatives of the Department of Science and Technology, government of India and the UK Natural Environment Research Council. The results of the study have recently been published in the peer-reviewed journal Science of the Total Environment (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.149340). The paper is co-authored by Jayakumar Renganathan, Insamam Ul Huq S, Kamaraj Ramakrishnan, Manthiram Karthik Ravichandran, and Ligy Philip.

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Talking about the findings, Ligy Philip, said, “We monitored the water quality of Cauvery river for two years to assess the seasonal variation of emerging contaminants, especially pharmaceutically active compounds.”

The team collected water from 22 locations along the entire stretch of the river and set up 11 sampling stations near discharge points of partially treated or untreated wastewater and 11 locations near intake points of water supply systems. The quality of water at the catchment sites was also monitored.

According to their findings, water quality and levels of pharmaceutical contaminants in the Cauvery are influenced by the monsoon season. Due to reduced flow of water and continuous waste discharge from multiple sources, the post-monsoon period showed an increased level of various types of contaminants including pharmaceuticals

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