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Drug pollution of environment studied

TEL AVIV, Israel, July 20 (UPI) -- Testing for pharmaceutical waste pollution of the environment doesn't go far enough as danger lurks long after they "disappear," Israeli researchers say.

When our environment doesn't test positive for the presence of a specific drug, Dror Avisar of Tel Aviv University says, we assume it's not there.

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But through biological or chemical processes such as sun exposure or oxidization, drugs can break down or degrade into different forms, he says, and could still be lurking in water or soil.

Searches for drugs in the environment are typically looking for known compounds -- parent drugs -- such as antibiotics, painkillers, lipid controllers, anti-psychotic medications and many more, a TAU release said Wednesday.

"If we don't find a particular compound, we don't see contamination -- but that's not true," Avisar says. "We may have several degradation products with even higher levels of bioactivity."

Avisar and his research group have been working to identify the conditions under which compounds degrade, how they degrade, and the resulting chemical products.

Among the factors they consider are sun exposure, water composition, temperatures, pH levels and organic content.

"It's important to talk about the new chemicals in our environment, derived from parent drugs. They are part of the mixture," Avisar says. "Chemicals do not simply disappear -- we must understand what they've turned into. We are dealing with a whole new range of contaminants."

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