Friday, March 21, 2008

Drugs In US Drinking Water

I'm on lots of medications. I mean lots. I need drugs to have some semblance of normal daily function. I'm a tree hugger too. For year this is been a concern of mine. Not only does the US lack any set "acceptable" limit for the amount of pharmaceuticals in our water but also there's no regulations requiring testing of our water for prescription drugs.

The AP has the dope:

A vast array of pharmaceuticals -- including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones -- have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

Officials in Philadelphia say testing there discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in treated drinking water.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs -- and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen -- in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas -- from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit, Michigan, to Louisville, Kentucky.
Yes, right now the amounts are tiny. But it's penetrated the watersheds:
The AP's investigation also indicates that watersheds, the natural sources of most of the nation's water supply, also are contaminated. Tests were conducted in the watersheds of 35 of the 62 major providers surveyed by the AP, and pharmaceuticals were detected in 28.
Even at these levels, trace amounts of prescription drugs can be harmful to humans and animals alike:
And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies -- which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public -- have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.
Here's what happens after we pee:
The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.
In a world where wars are currently being fought over water (i.e. Darfur), the long term implications of prescription drugs in our drinking water are chilling. This isn't just an American problem, prescription drugs have been detected in the drinking water of the UK, Italy and elsewhere.


*FYI: AP Water Probe Prompts Senate Hearings