U.S. manufacturers, including drug-makers, have legally released 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways that often provide drinking water, according to an Associated Press investigation.
Active pharmaceutical ingredients are used in an array of manufacturing including drug-making. Nitroglycerin for instance, is a heart drug and also used in explosives. Lithium is used to treat bioplar disorder and to make ceramics. And copper shows up in everything from pipes to contraceptives.
The extent of drugs released by U.S. manufacturers is currently unknown because they are not officially tracked as drugs. But the government unintentionally keeps data on a few according to 20 years of federal records.
The AP identified twenty-two compounds that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors as industrial chemicals and the FDA classifies as active pharmaceutical ingredients.
Although most cities and water providers still do not test for drugs in water, some experts say pharma-tainted water will be found wherever researchers test.
The largest contributors to water contamination are consumers who flush drugs down the toilet and excrete the drugs their bodies do not absorb. An estimated 250 million pounds of pharmaceuticals and contaminated packaging are thrown away by hospitals and long-term care facilities each year.
The data doesn’t show how much of the 271 million pounds is from manufacturers versus drug makers; also, the figure is a massive underscore because of the limited government tracking.
The lack of required testing amounts to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about whether or not drug-makers are contributing to water pollution, say some experts.
Drug-makers and water regulators have dismissed the suggestion that their manufacturing significantly contributes to contaminants that are being found in water.
An AP investigation last year found trace amounts of several pharmaceuticals – including mood stabilizers, sex hormones and antibiotics – in U.S. drinking water supplies. #