Boo! All week long, the Eco Women will be posting about the environmental issues that scare them the most.
This past spring the Associated Press ran a 5 month investigation that revealed all kinds of drugs in the drinking water used by at least 41 million Americans. These drugs included antibiotics, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, and hormones.
Here are some of their findings:
_Officials in Philadelphia said testing there discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in treated drinking water, including medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. Sixty-three pharmaceuticals or byproducts were found in the city’s watersheds.
_Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications were detected in a portion of the treated drinking water for 18.5 million people in Southern California.
_Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed a Passaic Valley Water Commission drinking water treatment plant, which serves 850,000 people in Northern New Jersey, and found a metabolized angina medicine and the mood-stabilizing carbamazepine in drinking water.
_A sex hormone was detected in San Francisco’s drinking water.
_The drinking water for Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas tested positive for six pharmaceuticals.
_Three medications, including an antibiotic, were found in drinking water supplied to Tucson, Ariz.
This news isn’t terribly surprising considering the love affair Americans, especially aging Americans, have with pharmaceuticals. The number of prescriptions rose to 3.7 million in the last 5 years. Nonprescription drug purchases are 3.3 billion — a number certain to rise as certain medications become available over-the-counter like Claritin.
Most of these drugs get passed through urine into wastewater treatment systems where the drugs simply cannot break down. Pharmaceuticals are designed to remain stable so their shelf life lasts and lasts. Drugs don’t disappear once they’re in a body — many can’t be removed from water once they’re passed through the human body, including popular cholesterol medications. Reverse osmosis is the only method proven to remove all contamination, but it’s expensive and impractical and leaves behind gallons of contaminated water.
The other source of drugs in our drinking water is disposal — people don’t finish a drug or find an outdated bottle of something in their medicine cabinet and flush it down the toilet — directly infusing it into the water supply.
Aquifiers near landfills and animal feed lots provide another source of contamination — steroids and antibiotics given to cattle flow straight into the water.
What’s the result of all these drugs in the water supply? The bottom feeders of the food chain are already showing the effects — male fish are being feminized because of their exposure to estrogen, earthworms, zooplankton, minnows and frogs also show abnormalities. As we all know from pesticide use in the 60′s, trace amounts that damage the bottom of the food chain work up — remember the thin eggshells threatening the extinction of the American Bald Eagle — DDT had made its way through plants to fish to settle and concentrate in birds. New lab studies now show small amounts of medication can affect human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. This limited research has already unveiled the danger of drugs in our water — and it’s just begun to study the effects of continuous exposure to small amounts of drugs over a long period of time.
What’s to be done?
That’s the scariest part of this story — the contamination is here and continues to increase as we age and depend more and more on pharmaceuticals to cure what ails us. We can’t turn to bottled water as a safe source since bottlers mostly repackage tap water and don’t test for pharmaceuticals. Home filtration systems and boiling don’t remove the drugs either.
* Stop flushing pharmaceuticals, instead throw them away in the trash.
* Reduce our use of pharmaceuticals. Many (although not all) conditions can be resolved through healthy living, making some medications unnecessary.
* Demand accountability from the EPA, FDA and public officials on this issue.
* Request that our local water supply gets tested and those test results get published.
For the rest of this scary story from the Associated Press, click here. Yes, Fox News ran the complete study!