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Experts Warn Prescription, Over-the-Counter Drugs Polluting World's Rivers

FILE - A pharmacy employee looks for medication as she works to fill a prescription while working at a drugstore in New York.

The world's rivers and fresh water systems are full of pollution from prescription and over-the-counter drugs and it is taking a toll on the environment and wildlife, experts say.

Scientists meeting Tuesday in Vienna said if no action is taken, the problem will increase by 65 percent by 2050.

The drugs include painkillers, hormones, anti-depressants and antihistamines.

Much of it ends up in the waters through human and animal waste because only small amounts are filtered out in treatment plants or absorbed into the ecosystem.

The drugs have caused sex charges in fish and amphibians and one type of anti-inflammatory drug has driven vultures in India close to extinction.

U.N. experts have also said medicines in the environment are helping create drug-resistant bacteria.

Some experts say that technology is not enough to tackle the problem and that a substantial reduction on a dependence on drugs is also needed.