The excessive use of antibiotics in humans and animals has severely damaged China’s major rivers, with bodies of water near populated cities such as Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai showing some of the highest concentrations of contamination.
In 2013, China’s total consumption of antibiotics was recorded at 162,000 tons, with humans consuming 48 percent and animals consuming the rest, according to a study from the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry.
Accounting for nearly half of the consumption of the world’s antibiotics, “China is the world’s biggest consumer,” Ying Guangguo, the study’s lead researcher, told the New York Times.
Chinese health care providers consider antibiotics to be a primary remedy for many illnesses, and they are often available without prescriptions. Farmers, meanwhile, add antibiotics into animals’ foods to boost the production. As antibiotics found in China’s water come primarily from human and animal excretion, waterways near the most densely populated regions, such as areas around the Hai River in the north and Pearl River in the south, are shown to have the highest antibiotic concentrations.
The government has taken efforts to monitor and limit the amount of antibiotics used in major hospitals, but sales still go unregulated in smaller hospitals and clinics. As for animals, “there are no regulations for poultry and pig farms in China for how to manage their wastewater,” says Ying. “It all depends on the environmental consciousness of farm owners. Small owners tend to discharge wastewater directly into rivers because wastewater treatment is expensive.”
Knowing that bacteria can actually thrive with the overuse of antibiotics, experts are concerned that the powerful medicines will soon begin to lose effectiveness.
“Although our study does not show directly that high levels of antibiotics in water would lead to drug resistance in humans, antibiotic pollutants have negative impacts on the ecosystem,” says Ying. “And since we are living in the environment and interacting with it, it will eventually affect our health.”
Last year, a report revealed that 68 kinds of antibiotics were found in China’s surface water along with 90 other non-antibiotic medical ingredients.
[Image via EpochTimes]
By Sharon Choi