Pharmaceuticals in water supply make it hard to swallow

Our precious water supply may be at risk
Our precious water supply may be at riskCourtesy Tsjal
Well, this is not good to hear.

An investigation by the Associated Press has revealed that the drinking water of more than two dozen US cities is polluted with pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs.

The medications, which include antibiotics, sex hormones, and mood stabilizers, along with commonly used medications such as ibuprofen, were detected in trace amounts – quantities of parts per billions or even trillions - but let’s face it, this is really disturbing news.

How the drugs got there is obvious; our country’s population is a highly medicated one. We pop a lot pill for all sorts of conditions, headaches, depression, high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure, birth control, sexual dysfunction, to name just a few. Our bodies metabolize a large portion of these drugs but any part not absorbed, ends up going down the toilet and back into the water system.

“People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that’s not the case,” said Christian Daughton, an EPA scientist who was one of the first to bring attention to the issue.

Waste treatment plants filter the water before it gets discharged back into reservoirs or into the water table, and the water is treated again for drinking but unfortunately the treatment plants just aren’t set up to filter out the drug traces. The AP’s five-month investigation also turned up disturbing data that shows some natural watersheds are also contaminated, meaning this stuff is getting into everything.

The trace amounts don’t seem to be a concern, at least not in the short term. But what about in the long term? The effect of ingesting low-levels of all these different types of medications over a lifetime –or even during the critical nine months of gestation – just isn’t clearly understood. Some recent studies have shown disturbing alterations in human cells and wildlife exposed to water laced with pharmaceuticals and industrial pollutants, but these studies aren’t well known to the general population.

And human waste isn’t the only source of contamination. Steroids given to cattle have been shown to find their way from feedlots back into the water system. And here’s an unsettling statistic I learned recently: 75 percent of the antibiotics sold by the US drug companies is used on livestock -such as chickens- to keep them healthy while they grow fat for the slaughterhouse. Some of their manure is then used to fertilize crop fields and the antibiotics get into the aquifers.

So what to do? At the moment, the federal government has no requirement for testing water for drugs and many major cities don’t do it. Less than 50 percent of the 62 cities the AP investigated didn’t test for that kind of contamination. These included major metropolitan centers such as Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Chicago, New York City and Phoenix. Some water providers told the AP investigators that they had found no traces of pharmaceuticals in their water, only to have an independent test show that wasn’t true.

You might think, as I did, that maybe bottled water is the answer. Unfortunately much of that is just repackaged (and untested) tap water. And most home purification systems don’t filter out drug contaminates. There is a process called reverse osmosis that can rid the water of all traces of medical contaminants but at the moment, it is very expensive and results in a lot of contaminated waste water just to get a single gallon of potable water.

And the US is not alone in this problem. Traces of pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and aquifers around the world. Considering that only 3 percent of Earth’s water is fresh water, something needs to be done.

AP Story

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

BLB's picture
BLB says:

That news aint a good one. it really makes you wonder and think alot. so we take showers and drink hormone pills. there is something in the water everyday, i wonder how long ago this had happened, if it had happened a while ago would it be such a big deal since we've been using it all our lives?"?"?"?"?"?"


posted on Wed, 03/12/2008 - 7:44pm
tiffany_88's picture
tiffany_88 says:

The new scared to everybody, because is an element we need to survived so I can't believe that it's a dangers to the people in the USA.

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 9:50am
JARVIS's picture
JARVIS says:

I think this article is really interesting. I would like to know in which cities and is this problem going to get worse and worse.

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 9:50am
MrBig621188's picture
MrBig621188 says:

yeah on the news it said that minnapolis ( forgot how to spell it) is one of the cities to have pharmacutical drugs in the water supply. plus since its such a low amount the water company is still going to sell and regulate the water.

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 9:54am
MrBig621188's picture
MrBig621188 says:

yeah on the news it said that minnapolis ( forgot how to spell it) is one of the cities to have pharmacutical drugs in the water supply. plus since its such a low amount the water company is still going to sell and regulate the water.

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 9:54am
MrBig621188's picture
MrBig621188 says:

oops sorry double clicked :X

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 9:55am
hmoob_muas's picture
hmoob_muas says:

is this in my water that i buy at the stoere too?

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 9:55am
mdr's picture
mdr says:

It depends. Some bottled water is just repackaged tap water.

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:03am
diamond2008's picture
diamond2008 says:

I can't believe that this is going on. That's nasty

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 9:56am
nelson.robin's picture
nelson.robin says:

man thats man i have no comment for this article at all... i just want to know in what states

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 9:57am
twila_08's picture
twila_08 says:

I don' t really drink a lot of tap water. But it's not good the way this is because we trust the city to clean our water what if those trace amounts turn into big amounts. Then we would have something else to talk about then it would be don't drink the water because it's too dangerous.

Twila Turnage

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 9:58am
bert123's picture
bert123 says:

this is crazy so what are they going to do to fix this problem? how harmful are they to us?
IBI Call it what you want IBI

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 9:58am
Kunicki24's picture
Kunicki24 says:

So is this in bottled water you get from the store or is it just in the tap water that you get at home?

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 9:59am
mdr's picture
mdr says:

Who knows?! Some bottled water is just repackaged tap water. And I don't think many of the bottlers would be testing for pharmaceuticals.

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:05am
shanee's picture
shanee says:

That really doesnt have an impact on me because i dont drink straight tap water ...if that matters. i hope its not in bottled water.

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:00am
zephyr's picture
zephyr says:

i think this is crazy so im getting drugged up by drinking water. i want to know what states and what cities

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:00am
andyshadexx's picture
andyshadexx says:

I duno know if i drank any of the water that contain pharmacutical (chemical , etc) in it, but drink water from the 2 gal/per bottle.

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:01am
MrBig621188's picture
MrBig621188 says:

well its true but according to the companies that produce the water it is like the equivlent to a 1/4 or a 1/2 a drop of water in the whole bottle

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:06am
mdr's picture
mdr says:

Perhaps, but the concern is over the long term as well as what happens when all these different types of medications get mixed together. I don't know about you but I think since water is crucial to life that it should in no way be contaminated with this kind of stuff. Something needs to be done to protect this resource.

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:14am
DangYo's picture
DangYo says:

Dang Yo!!
I might need to stop drinking them water in the summer then...

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:20am
flinch619's picture
flinch619 says:

i smell a lawsuit


posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:10am
MrBig621188's picture
MrBig621188 says:

it probably wont go far if it does happen because u would need to catch something from the water then have to prove that but in that case u drank the evidence so the oppisition can easily argue that you are just misusing drugs.

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:12am
LEE's picture
LEE says:

I saw this on the news. I think that it's nasty. Someone could get sick from drinking the water that has all those drugs and nasty things in it. They should do something about this. Clean the water!

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:13am
mdr's picture
mdr says:

Yes, our government seems to be much more concerned with other 'important' issues such as protecting prima donna "star" athletes from polluting themselves with steroids rather than protecting the rest of the population from being polluted by pharmaceuticals in our water supply.

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:20am
koallainfestation37's picture
koallainfestation37 says:

wow that really sucks

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:14am
Jefflemus00's picture
Jefflemus00 says:

This is shocking!

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 10:25am
Cindy's picture
Cindy says:

Personally, I'm less concerned about this than some of the other junk that can get into our water. We're talking trace amounts, here. And besides, where did everyone think all of those drugs would end up? Water always cycles...

posted on Mon, 03/24/2008 - 10:18am
hawa's picture
hawa says:

Is it true about what these people are saying about the water problem?
right now i don't even know what to say because is very important in our
life, with water we can't do anything. And right now all we have to do
is to be very careful with what kind of water we drink.

posted on Mon, 03/24/2008 - 2:05pm
Kunicki24's picture
Kunicki24 says:

There should really be tests for this kind of stuff or more so required testing....

posted on Thu, 03/27/2008 - 9:52am
Jena Bena's picture
Jena Bena says:

I can believe this is happen and it will not stop in the cities its happening in now it will spread and we will not be able to stop it unless we act now. I work for a long term care and I watch them every monring when a resident passes away or if a resident refoused their medication. It goes right down the toilet. I would like to knew more about this subject for I am doing a research paper on poulltions of medications in our drinking water.

posted on Thu, 09/04/2008 - 10:37am

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