The Green Side of Medicine

Conventional medicine and the environment are generally never uttered within the same breath in most of David Suzuki’s soliloquies. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to pollute unsustainably is generally overlooked. There are two ways that this pollution occurs. The first, when companies such as Pfizer (Lipitor®), Merck Frosst (Fosamax®) and Novartis (Ritalin®) manufacture and develop their prize-winning drugs, they do so while releasing hazardous wastes such as cyanide, toluene and other volatile organic compounds that wastewater treatment plants cannot handle due to their toxicity. According to EPA reports, Big Pharma discharged 266 million gallons of wastewater per day into the environment in 1990. Imagine what it must be now. A back-end way (pun intended) that they pollute involves the toxic metabolites that are released from our bodies after taking these drugs. These make it into ground water supplies in detectable amounts, not to mention unfinished prescriptions that end up in landfills to leech into the ground water. According to a report released in 2006 by the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, our bodies don’t break down 50 to 90% of the active ingredients found in our meds. These pollutants affect wildlife unfortunate enough to drink contaminated water supplies.
How are we to fix this problem then? One way might be to institute a sugar tax whereby all candy bars and sodas would cost $5 a piece. People would still buy them like they do their alcohol and cigarettes, yet would probably buy less and it would improve human health significantly, making meds less necessary. The government could then theoretically apply that tax revenue to organic farming subsidies, which might help to make organic produce cheaper and more abundant, further improving our health. Another way might be to use an orthomolecular medicine approach such as Niacin (Vitamin B3) to balance cholesterol fractions to help prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease, Vitamin B12 to prevent anemia and senile dementia, high dose Vitamin C for its antiviral/ antioxidant activity and Chinese herbal prescriptions for complex chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia. In addition, we could use Yoga and acupuncture for musculo-skeletal pain.
These work just as good if not better than their drug equivalents and are non-toxic, biodegradable and eco-friendly as well as far cheaper. Then the only problem left would be the ire of the pharmaceutical and processed food industries.

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