A UTC professor who spent years collecting and analyzing samples of Tennessee River water between Chattanooga and Knoxville says researchers need to keep an eye on the amount of prescription drugs that make it into the river.

Sean Richards, professor of biological and environmental sciences at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said he and a team of researchers found trace amounts of 13 human pharmaceuticals in every one of 160 sample points along the river. And as the population grows, those concentrations are only going to get bigger.

Richards said about 24,000 unique pharmaceuticals are used regularly in the United States, but they contain about 3,400 specific active ingredients, or core chemicals — the acetaminophen in Tylenol or the fluoxetine in Prozac.

For his study, he looked only for 14 active ingredients in various painkillers, fever reducers, histamine blockers and other classifications of drugs.

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