Prescription Drugs: Helping You, But Not the Environment

High Tech High Blog Series: Blog 4 of 7

prescription-medications water pollution


How We Contribute to the Problem


We are the problem. 


The county outputs 175 million gallons of sewage every day through the Wastewater Treatment Plant on the end of Point Loma. The waste travels out a 4.5-mile tank and is dumped through a 12 ft. diameter pipe into deep ocean water. This is problematic because many believe the pollutants dumped along with this waste are harmful to the environment.


The amount of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) introduced to our environment is a leading cause of concern. With the amount of individuals taking prescription and non-prescription drugs on the rise, scientists fear an increase in bacterial resistance.


Medicine Can Be Toxic?

Additionally, the increase in the use of birth control, which is among these medications that are not regulated and enters our sewage system at 90 percent effectiveness, is responsible for disrupting our endocrine hormones inducing things like breast cancer, endometriosis, birth defects, abnormal sexual development, lowered sperm counts. There have also been world-wide accounts of the feminization of male fish near sewage treatment plants.



These untreated PPCPs travel through our sewage, surface and ground water, eventually affecting our drinking water and working their way up the food chain through bio magnification.


Due to the population increase and a larger consumption of drugs per capita, PPCP use and therefore contamination is on the rise. Even low levels of medicines found in our waterways hurt fish and aquatic life. Especially around these “hot spots,” that is areas close to sewage runoff, researchers have observed negative changes in fish behavior and reproduction.


How We Can Help

Learn more about Proper Disposal of Medications and Pharmaceuticals. Also, help the issue by supporting clean and sustainable water through potable reuse projects


Supporting new legislation to change sewage treatment plant treatment processes to better remove PPCP is another great way to contribute to the cause. 

To research and help prevent further pollution, a class of 50+ students from High Tech High school in Point Loma, California teamed up with San Diego Coastkeeper® to conduct the “Oceans Away Project,” a project designed to help inform the public of the consequences of their daily actions.