Human-induced damage to the world’s ecosystems is one of the most alarming issues facing mankind today. Arthropod activity is essential for maintaining the proper balance of the ecosystem. Unfortunately, last summer, researchers in Germany demonstrated that insect populations are declining within the country’s nature preserves. Not long after this study was published, researchers from many other countries confirmed that the same trend was occurring in other parts of the world. It is now understood that the insect population is decreasing on a global scale, which will certainly upset the balance of the global ecosystem. The environmental consequences of such a dramatic die-off of insect life cannot be predicted with certainty, but there is little doubt that the consequences will be disastrous. Now, researchers have stumbled upon another insect-related environmental issue, and it has to do with drugs. Researchers at Monash University have found that insects dwelling near streams, creeks and other water bodies had absorbed 69 different pharmaceutical drugs. The insects absorbed these drugs from the small amounts of waste water that eventually become mixed with fresh water sources. The pharmaceuticals came from discarded drugs and human waste. This will likely cause problems for the wild animals that feed on these contaminated insects.
Researchers believe that many of the wild animals that feed on insects near bodies of water, like the platypus, are already consuming 50 percent of the human daily dose of antidepressants every day. The 69 pharmaceutical drugs found within insects is a low estimate, as not all pharmaceutical drugs were tested. The most common drugs found within insects were muscle relaxants, antihistamines, paracetamol, beta-blocking agents and medication for Parkinson's disease. Spiders dwelling near small water bodies were also tested, and were found to contain 66 different pharmaceutical drugs. Spiders did not absorb the drugs from the water; rather, they acquired the drugs from the contaminated insects that they consume. Before this study, researchers were unaware of how rapidly traces of pharmaceutical drugs traveled through the food web, but now it seems clear that insects, spiders, birds, bats, fish and many other animals will become affected by this form of water pollution if they are not already.