The Public Cost of PPCPs and Personal Health

The presence of PPCPs - government shorthand for pharmaceuticals and personal care products - in the environment is a silent crisis in the making.
From: Alex Summers
September 23rd, 2013 | 0 Comments

The increase of pollutants in the environment has finally spurred businesses and government agencies into action.

Benzenes, petroleum products, and all manner of biological contaminants are the first to warrant red flags from your evening news, and rightfully so.

But what may come in under the radar is PPCP’s. That is government shorthand for pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and their presence in the environment is a silent crisis in the making.

While the situation has been under watchful eyes for several years now, the typical consumer is largely oblivious to its impact for several reasons.

Lack of Understanding of the Science

Most people picture pharmaceutical production as a pristine process, executed by technicians clad head-to-toe in surgical gear, quietly laboring along gleaming stainless steel equipment.

While that’s largely accurate, it overlooks the real and sometimes troubling chemistry that is at work to create the thousands of pills barreling down that conveyor belt.

The fact is, chemical reactions have products and byproducts. The products, in this case, go into human or animal bodies; the byproducts must be disposed of just like those from products viewed as more unsavory, such as cleaning solutions or synthetic materials.

Further, many consumers perceive the bodies of pharmaceutical users as the end destination for the product, which is magically metabolized into water and fairy dust.

The reality is that humans and animals alike will ultimately excrete the remnants of PPCP’s, allowing them into the environment with little or no means of filtration.

Unawareness

In a word, that is it. People don’t know what options they have for medications that are more environmentally positive, so they don’t request them from their doctors, discuss them with their pharmacists, or even know to research them ahead of time.

Educating the public about the impact of PPCP’s on ecology will be key to a long-term reduction in it. Until more consumers know the impact of what they’re doing–and understand there are good alternatives–they will behave as they always have.

With that information must come an emphasis on the reliability of better products. Otherwise, the environment will continue to fall victim to…

A High Tolerance for the Unsavory

No one wants pollution, but not everyone works to prevent it. What separates the green-minded individual from those less concerned is what they are willing to sacrifice for ecology’s sake.

One driver might willingly trade vehicles to save on MPG, but be unwilling to expand that by carpooling. Another motorist may gladly carpool but refuse to invest in geothermal heat pumps for the home.

The green-minded consumer is lonelier than ever when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Very few people will decline a life-saving drug just because of its environmental effects, and not many more would refuse even an antibiotic for that reason.

Under the guidance of CEO, Stephen MacMillan, sBioMed has been a somewhat solitary player in reducing the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals. This can be seen in initiatives like the firm’s work on infection control drugs that contribute less to the superbug phenomena that has emerged as a result of the high usage of antibiotics.

Can such products catch on? Given the high efficacy of existing drugs and the absence of a public clamoring to the contrary, it will probably be slower than it should. But there is no shortage of reasons to work toward an acceleration of the process.