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Shock as study shows Nairobi’s tap water contains ARVs

The presence of 24 different pharmaceutical drugs has been confirmed in all forms of water in Nairobi and Kisumu.

These include antibiotics, painkillers, antimalarial, psychiatric and HIV and Aids drugs in three waste water treatment plants, three rivers and three wells in Nairobi and Kisumu.

The study led by Kenneth Otieno  K’oreje of the Water Resources Management Authority and Ghent University, Belgium, shows local waste water treatment plants are not able to get rid of pharmaceutical residue before the water is released for consumption by residents.


In the report published in April in the journal Chemosphere,  K’oreje says the waste water treatment plants of Dandora in Nairobi and Nyalenda and Kisat in Kisumu were not effective in arresting pharmaceutical residue.

When the researchers sampled the treated waters in receiving River Ngon’g in Nairobi and rivers Auji and Kisat in Kisumu, they were found heavily loaded with pharmaceutical residues.

Also samples from shallow wells, whose water is used for drinking and other domestic purposes, were found to heavily carry pharmaceutical drug residues.

The researchers say this is especially serious in most peri-urban estates of Nairobi and Kisumu where residents depend on septic tanks for sewage disposal and shallow wells for drinking water.

“This is scary because the chemicals will kill important life-forms in the water bodies,” says Prof Nichols Abinya a cancer specialist and lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

The high rates of chemical contamination are no coincidence.

On May 17th, the Nairobi based Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre and the Chinese Academy of Sciences published a detailed report showing heavy contamination of agricultural soils in parts of Kenya.


The report published in the journal Ecotoxicology confirmed 12 antibiotics used in human and livestock treatment in soils collected from Mount Suswa Conservancy, Narok, Mai Mahiu and Juja.

The latter is near Nairobi and a source of dairy and poultry products and vegetables for Nairobi residents while Narok is the leading producer of wheat in the country as well as a source of meat consumed locally and as far as the capital city.

While this may constitute a serious human health problem it could also be a source of soil poisoning hence reduced agricultural production. It may also make it hard for Kenya to export their produce to developed markets.

“A lot of antibiotics here are not only being discharged into the environment but also found in the food which may be a threat to human health,” says the Chinese study.

It gave an example where all sampled chicken eggs were found to contain the antibiotic sufadiazine used for treating wound infections.