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Wastewater treatment plants that accept discharges from pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities send “substantially” higher concentrations of medicines into rivers and streams than treatment plants that do not take these discharges, according to the first study to examine the issue across the U.S.

In reaching their conclusion, the study authors compared effluent — which is wastewater that is sent into rivers and other natural bodies of water — from 13 treatment plants that took pharmaceutical discharges and six plants that did not. They examined plants scattered among rural and urban locations around the country in order to compare plant sizes, varying climates, and technology used for treating wastewater.

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