Drugs in Drinking Water of at least 41 Million Americans

By Michael Dorausch, D.C.

There are drugs in the drinking water. All sorts of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, sex hormones, anti-convulsion drugs, psychiatric drugs, painkillers, epileptic medications, and chemicals to treat high cholesterol, have been found in drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, according to a stunning investigation conducted by the Associated Press.

pharmaceuticals including antibiotics and sex hormones flushed down toilets The report, available here for about 30 days, features findings on a mind boggling number of pharmaceuticals currently found in metropolitan drinking water supplies.

While the report mentions in the second paragraph that concentrations of pharmaceuticals found are tiny, and municipal water suppliers insist their treated water is safe, the findings have scientists concerned about long-term consequences towards human health.

If you’re wondering how so many drugs are getting into the water, it’s really fairly simple. People consume pharmaceuticals and pass percentages of those chemical substances unabsorbed, back into the water supply, when waste is flushed down the toilet. While waste water is treated before it enters rivers, reservoirs and lakes, some water is cleaned at treatment plants and piped back into consumer water supplies.

According to the report, representatives for the pharmaceutical industry claim that contamination of water supplies is not a problem, and city water officials maintain water supplies are safe. What has scientists so greatly concerned is the fact that the federal government doesn’t require any testing and hasn’t set any safety limits for drugs found in municipal water supplies.

In tests performed across the nation, trace residues of pharmaceuticals included medicines such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, carbamazepine, estrogen, painkillers, epilepsy medications, and many others. According to the report, 63 different pharmaceuticals or byproducts were found in the city of Philadelphia’s watersheds, and both anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications were detected in a portion of treated water supplies that serve nearly 19 million people in Southern California.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, the agency enforces federal clean water and safe drinking water laws, provides support for municipal wastewater treatment plants, and takes part in pollution prevention efforts aimed at protecting watersheds and sources of drinking water.

At the Carolina Environmental Program 2006 Symposium, Benjamin Grumbles, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water, stated “There are opportunities to reduce loadings by moving away from agricultural use of drugs that promote animal growth, promoting drug recycling programs, ensuring that drugs are properly managed in hospitals and health care facilities, and encouraging pharmaceutical companies to reduce impurities within their products that can enter the environment.” He was quoted in the AP report and says the agency is taking addressing the growing concern very seriously.

For those seeking more science on this topic, Christian G. Daughton, Ph.D., of the Environmental Sciences Division, US Environmental Protection Agency, has an excellent PowerPoint presentation (available here in PDF format) from the Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products Symposium — California Department of Toxic Substances Control, from May 22, 2007 in Sacramento, California. According to the PDF report, two classes of therapeutics that have received the most attention are antibiotics (potential for resistance selection among pathogens) and steroidal hormones. Sex hormones were detected in the supplies of San Francisco’s drinking water, according to the just issued AP report.

Reputation management campaigns for municipal water supply providers and the pharmaceutical industry are no doubt already underway. Their interpretations of the AP report and versions of scientific findings will seep into media reports, likely highlighting the lack of evidence shown that there is any risk involved with such low levels of pharmaceuticals being found in drinking water supplies. A Google News search for Drugs Drinking Water should provide one with a number of related reports, from various news sources.

I can hear someone saying so what is the big deal? So many of us take medications already. Directly from your kitchen tap you may be able to access sex hormones, epileptic drugs, anti-anxiety medication, caffeine, antibiotics, and maybe even trace residue of nitroglycerin. Add that to your regular dose of municipal fluoride, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a pharmaceutical cocktail (even if it is parts per billion).

Consider this — a newborn baby being raised today in a metro area like Philadelphia or Los Angeles could potentially be exposed to all of these reported chemicals (albeit at low level dosages) for decades, and we have no research to show what the potential side effects could be. They would potentially be receiving a daily low level dose of chemicals, which were intentionally engineered to change chemical function in humans, such as limiting reproduction, or effecting neurological function.

In Darrel Crain’s article, A fish out of water, he stated “The earth has a remarkable natural filtration process, but even this marvelous recycling system is incapable of breaking down man-made toxins, so much of it remains in the water.” And were not limited to over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals, reports have been shared regarding Cocaine in the water as well. May as well stick to cola and cold gin.

California Department of toxic substances control website has guidelines regarding pharmaceutical waste. Green-minded folk concerned about the environment may want to consider this statement “For most of us, we have been trained to get rid of old or unwanted drugs by flushing them down the toilet. This practice evolved from our desire to keep potentially dangerous drugs out of the hands of others, especially children. However, recent research is showing that this may be the least environmentally friendly method of disposing of old or unwanted drugs.”

Gives new meaning to the War On Drugs and learning to Just Say No.

planetc1.com-news @ 6:18 pm | Article ID: 1205111907