Study: World’s Rivers Are Polluted with Antibiotics

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. prescribe / prɪˈskraɪb / (v) – to recommend a medication

    My doctor prescribed this painkiller to ease my muscle pain.

  2. sewage / ˈsu ɪdʒ / (n) – waste water or waste materials that pass through pipes

    Sewage from nearby houses and buildings are polluting the river.

  3. turmoil / ˈtɜr mɔɪl / (n) – a state of confusion, disorder, or violence

    The ongoing rebellion put the entire country in turmoil.

  4. eye-opener / ˈaɪˌoʊ pə nər / (n) – something that gives an unexpected realization or insight

    His speech was an eye-opener that inspired students to do their best in their studies.

  5. hypothesize / haɪˈpɒθ əˌsaɪz / (v) – to propose a possible explanation for something

    Doctors hypothesized that his poor health may have been caused by lack of sleep.


Read the text below.

Rivers around the world contain alarming amounts of antibiotics, a new study reveals.

Researchers from the University of York in England examined rivers in 72 countries and found antibiotics in 65% of river samples. Antibiotics are medicines prescribed for bacterial infections. Test results revealed that some river samples contain worrying levels of antibiotics. This means that the amount of antibiotics in the samples exceeded 32,000 nanograms per liter.

The samples came from 711 rivers, including the Mekong, Thames, and Tigris. Findings showed that samples with dangerous levels of antibiotics were mostly from Asian and African rivers. Rivers located in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria had the highest contamination levels.

Researchers also discovered that the most contaminated rivers were usually near wastewater treatment facilities, sewage dumps, and places with political turmoil. Human and animal wastes, as well as leakage from wastewater treatment and drug manufacturing infrastructure, carry the antibiotics into the rivers.

York University professor Alistair Boxall said that the results of the study were an eye-opener. Boxall hypothesized that the antibiotic contamination of rivers might be contributing to antibiotic resistance, which is a growing health concern worldwide.

According to a United Nations report, drug-resistant diseases cause at least 700,000 deaths around the world annually. The report further adds that if the problem with antibiotic-resistant bacteria remains unresolved, around 10 million people may die from bacterial infection yearly by 2050.

As a solution, Boxall suggested that countries with contaminated rivers should clean these rivers, enforce stricter regulations to protect them, and build better waste and wastewater treatment systems.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• What should countries with high-risk rivers do immediately after finding out that their rivers have dangerous levels of antibiotics? Discuss.
• Who do you think are going to be most affected by the river contamination? How can the government help them? Discuss.

Discussion B

• Aside from medicines, what other things could be dangerous if not properly disposed of? Discuss.
• What do you think are the proper ways to dispose toxic wastes or harmful substances? Enumerate.