A third of monitored antibiotic manufacturers in Himachal found to be polluting

Direct emissions from the pharma industry are a hotspot of antibiotic residues since they are discharged in larger concentrations than other indirect sources

By Deepak Bhati
Published: Thursday 17 February 2022
Photo: iStock_

Every third of the antibiotic manufacturing industries examined by the Himachal Pradesh Pollution Control Board have been found to be in violation of the discharge limits prescribed for Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETP), according to a new report.

The report had been requested by the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal in New Delhi from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change and the Central Pollution Control Board.

It was to detail measures taken to prevent pollution in the rivers Sirsa and Satluj due to waste discharged from the CETP in Baddi, Acme Life Sciences in Nalagarh and Helio Pharmaceuticals in Solan.

CETPs are treatment systems specifically designed for collective treatment of effluents generated from small-scale industrial facilities in an industrial cluster.

The concern was that the pharmaceutical industries at Barotiwala and Nalagarh were not connected to the CETP, therefore their effluents were being discharged straight into the rivers.

Some 37 of the 111 antibiotic manufacturing industries were found to be in violation of the discharge limits prescribed for CETP.

Antibiotics such as Azithromycin, Ciprofloxacin, Ofloxacin, Levofloxacin and others were found to be significantly present at the industry’s outlet leading to CETP for further treatment, but no comparison could be made since no residual antibiotic standards exist.

The removal efficiency of the primary treatment plants at industries prior to discharging into CETP, was found to be 0-74 per cent for Azithromycin, 90 per cent for Ciprofloxacin, 67-73 per cent for Ofloxacin and zero per cent for Levoflxacin and Cefpodoxime.

Antibiotics as Ofloxacin (63 microgram per litre) and levofloxacin (8 µg/l) were found to be present in substantial amounts at the CETP’s final discharge into the Sirsa river.

In terms of removal efficiency of antibiotic residues of CETP, it was found that Ofloxacin, Azithromycin, Levofloxacin, and Roxithroycin were reduced by 31 per cent, nine per cent, 31 per cent and 71 per cent, respectively.

Azithromycin antibiotic residue was found to be significantly present in the Sirsa, both upstream (2.5 µg/l) and downstream of the CETP (2.1 µg/l), which increased to 2.9 µg/l in the Nalagarh area.

Environmental contamination of antibiotics lead to resistance among human and veterinary pathogens, increases the chances of treatment failure, mortality and morbidity by increasing the use of more high-end antibiotics as the standard ones may not cure owing to resistance, which raises the entire cost of therapy.

Antibiotic residues may find their way to the environment by any of the following three modes:

  1. Wastewater discharge from pharmaceutical manufacturing
  2. Consumption of antibiotics by humans and animals and their faeces
  3. Non-scientific disposal of expired and / or unused medicines

Antibiotic residues in the environment can’t be traced back to a single source, but direct emissions from the pharmaceutical industry are a hotspot since they are discharged in larger concentrations than other indirect sources.

During the stakeholders’ consultation, a representative of the BBN (Baddi, Barotiwala, Nalagarh) Industries Association revealed that the association had received funding support of Rs 28 crore from the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

They received it under the ‘Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme’, for their proposal on ‘3 MILD Effluent Refractory Management and TDS reduction in CETP.’ The proposal’s implementation will be completed within a year.

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