New UN report warns unprecedented crisis of drug-resistant germs brewing in the natural environment

Risk managers are facing an unprecedented environmental crisis with a ticking time bomb of drug-resistant germs brewing in the natural environment, aided by humans dumping antibiotics and chemicals into the water and soil.

The UN’s latest risk report on environmental issues, Frontiers 2017, issued a stark warning that both humans and animals are now at greater risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections from performing everyday tasks like swimming in oceans.

The adverse effects of overreliance on antibiotics are well documented but this is the first time scientists have warned waste products from humans and animals, as well as the overuse the of hand sanitisers and antibacterial household products, have been shown to have a direct effect.

“Around the world, discharge from municipal, agricultural and industrial waste in the environment means it is common to find antibiotic concentrations in many rivers, sediments and soils,” the report said.

“It is steadily driving the evolution of resistant bacteria,” the report warns. “A drug that once protected our health is now in danger of very quietly destroying it.”

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has already put a restriction on the maximum concentration of triclosan in cosmetic and personal care items. Triclosan is an antibacterial agent found in consumer products like hand sanitisers and household cleaners.