April 2022

TEXT-ONLY VERSION (scroll to bottom to download Newsletter in PDF)

Pharmaceutical Contamination

Over the past few months, we have focused heavily on infectious pathogens and the havoc they can cause with relation to public health and safety and economic consequences. Another important topic that needs to be discussed is that of antibiotic resistance and the increasing presence of pharmaceutical compounds in the surrounding environment.

Pharmaceutical drugs often play a key role in the management of infectious diseases in animals, livestock, and aquacultures around the world. The ever-increasing number of pharmaceuticals that are being released into the surrounding water and soil creates a potential threat to all microorganisms, wildlife, and scavengers in these environments.

Pharmaceutical compounds are considered emerging contaminants. This is especially due to their impacts on wildlife. Veterinary drugs are expected to be a hazard for avian scavengers. The main route of exposure is from animal carcasses that have been treated with pharmaceuticals shortly before death.  One of the most common causes of mortality in scavengers (specifically birds of prey) is poisoning. Barbiturates cause a significant portion of these incidents. Barbiturates (specifically pentobarbital) are commonly used in the euthanasia of animals. They can be introduced into the environment though two routes of exposure:

  1. Through the consumption of carcasses of pets or livestock incorrectly disposed of in a field or at landfills frequently visited by scavengers.
  2. Ingestions of poisoned baits (this is commonly seen in lethal control of predators).

Another pressing concern is the increase in and emergence of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. In the case of antibiotics leaching into the environment this may lead to impacts on the structural, genetic, and functional diversity of microbial communities.

EarthPet’s closed composting system prohibits the leaching of harmful pharmaceuticals into the surrounding environment. Scavengers and wildlife do not have access to the potentially harmful animal carcasses and pharmaceutical compounds are safely contained within the bio-chambers.

EarthPet’s Infographic

Antibiotic Resistance: Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines.

Pharmaceutical compounds in the environment:

They can be introduced into the environment through two routes of exposure:

  • Through the consumption of carcasses of pets or livestock incorrectly disposed of in a field or at landfills frequently visited by scavengers.
  • Ingestions of poisoned baits (this is commonly seen in lethal control of predators).

According to a 2019 report from the World Health Organization, at least 700,000 people are already dying of drug-resistant diseases each year.

That number could rise to 10 million annually by 2050, making antibiotic resistant infections more deadly than cancer.

Did you know? Antibiotics are considered to be “persistent or pseudo-persistent substances because their entry rate into the environment is higher than the elimination rate”.

Sodium Pentobarbital:

  • Harmful euthanasia compound.
  • Can cause pentobarbital poisoning in wildlife & scavengers.

What can you do?

Use alternative methods such as EarthPet’s closed composting system to lay your pet to rest.

It’s environmentally friendly and safe. This way you guarantee that your pet gets a respectful farewell and that its last impact on this earth is not negative, but contributes to a healthier and safer planet.

EarthPet’s System is:

  • Recognised as a bio-secure disposal method.
  • Humane and environmentally friendly.
  • Effectively neutralising harmful pathogenic micro-organisms.
  • Eliminating the attraction of scavengers, rodents, birds and insects.
  • Preventing environmental contamination caused by pharmaceutical compounds.
  • Lowering greenhouse gas emissions and diverts organic waste from landfill.


Kaczala, F. and E. Blum, S., 2016. The Occurrence of Veterinary Pharmaceuticals in the Environment: A Review. Current Analytical Chemistry, 12(3), pp.169-182.

Kadam, A., Patil, S., Patil, S. and Tumkur, A., 2016. Pharmaceutical Waste Management An Overview. Indian Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 9(1), pp.2-8.

May, K., 2022. 9 eye-opening facts about antibiotic resistance — and 1 hopeful approach to overcoming it. [online] ideas.ted.com. Available at: <https://ideas.ted.com/9-fascinating-facts-about-antibiotic-resistance-and-1-hopeful-approach-to-overcoming-it/> [Accessed 3 May 2022].