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Pharmaceuticals Found in 41 Million Americans Drinking Water

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, March 10, 2008 12:11 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, EPA, Toxic Substances

Drinking water for 41 million Americans has been found to contain minute amount of pharmaceuticals, most of which are not being tested for and the effects which are unknown.

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Pharmaceuticals are entering the drinking water of approximately 41 million Americans, the investigative team of the AP reports.

The Associated Press looked at 24 municipalities during a five-month investigation combing through hundreds of scientific reports, databases, interviewing hundreds of people from scientists to officials and academics.  

Part of the problem is that there are no safety limits for pharmaceutical drugs in your drinking water unlike lead or mercury. The likely source of pollution is from septic tanks, from your body when you flush or from disposing medication down the sink or leaching from dumps. Some personal care products also contain plastics that mimic hormones.

Measuring these amounts has proven tricky but here is what is known so far:

Sedatives have been found in New York City's water.

Northern New Jersey water officials found angina medicine and mood-stabilizers in the drinking water which serves 850,000 people.

Ibuprofen and noproxen has been found in Washington D.C.'s water.

Southern California has seen anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety drugs entering drinking water for more than 18 million people.

Philadelphia found 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in treated drinking water including pain medication, medication for high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. 

Sex hormones were found in San Francisco's drinking water.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, researchers have found these substances, called “emerging contaminants,” almost everywhere they have looked for them. 

In a paper in 1999 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, Dr. Daughton and Thomas A. Ternes of the ESWE-Institute for Water Research and Water Technology in Germany noted that research has focused on conventional pollutants that are immediately toxic.

They urged researchers to focus on prescription drugs and personal care products that might be so insidious that they could become a slow-moving force responsible to ecological change and noticed too late to reverse the damage.

The EPA recognizes this as a growing problem. Hormone-related cancers have been linked to hormones or hormone-imposters in the environment.

Male bass fish in the Potomac have been found to be effected by the feminizing hormones and carried eggs. 

Author and biologist, Theo Colburn, who wrote, Our Stolen Future, addressed the issue of entry into the natural world of many petroleum-based chemicals and plastics that mimic hormones and whose affects are being seen on wildlife.

The problem is that everyday filtration systems such as sewage treatment plants remove pollutants but are not targeted to take pharmaceuticals from waste water. A filtration system in your home is not likely to remove pharmaceuticals either.

Among bottled waters, some are filtered tap water (Desani) and others come from deeper springs that might not hold the chemicals of municipal water supplies, but no one is looking.

Here are some solutions that are being devised:

* A number of states and municipalities have "Pharmaceutical take-back locations" where you can return your discarded pharmaceuticals and hospitals and clinics can return unused drugs.  

* Add pharmaceuticals to a list of hazardous waste along with lead and insecticides periodically collected and disposed of safely or by incineration. Clark County, Washington encourages you to take prescription narcotics to a police station for disposal. Non-controlled drugs can be returned to pharmacies and 80 percent participate.

* Patient guidelines that come in the package insert should further indicate whether it is safe to flush them down the drain as a means of disposal.  

* Encourage the federal government to require testing on your drinking water and to set safety limits. Of 62 water providers in the AP survey, the drinking water for 28 was tested. Houston, Chicago, Miami. Baltimore, Phoenix, Boston and New York City do not. 

Meanwhile the FDA is looking into the possibility that antibiotics in the water might be contributing to the emergence of antibiotic resistance of many diseases such as staph. #


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