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Senators Disturbed over Pharmaceuticals in Water Findings

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, March 12, 2008 10:10 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Toxic Substances, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Anti-Convulsants, Antibiotics, Ibupropen, Water

The Senate will hold hearings to try and improve the nation's contaminated water found to contain 56 different pharmaceuticals.


  • List of AP Investigative reports on water here 

Image Souce: http://creativecommons.org, Courtesy, che, Li-sung

It’s not uncommon to receive a sheet of paper from your municipal water provider telling you what’s in your local water.  It’s comforting to know that someone is checking.

But an investigative report is exposing for the first time to Americans that no one is checking for pharmaceuticals in your drinking water.  

And if you think you are safe with bottled water – think again. The lack of standards extends to bottled water brands as well.

And what’s worse – if they are found, you don’t have to be told. That’s because pharmaceuticals are not on the EPA watch list for water contaminants.

An investigative report that potentially affects almost every American who drinks water is sparking a bit of panic among water drinking and swift reaction from Capitol Hill.

Next month the Senate plans to hold hearings to further investigate what the Associated Press exposed this week in a five-month investigative report – that 41 million Americans are drinking tap water contaminated with pharmaceuticals.

The AP reporters reviewed scientific reports and environmental study sites as well as visited treatment plants and analyzed federal databases on drinking water.  

The EPA has been asked to establish a national task force to further investigate how the drugs got into our municipal water supplies and to take legislation action.

The AP national Investigative Team found that 56 different pharmaceuticals including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones have seeped into the water supply of at least 24 major metropolitan areas.

The theory is that when you dispose of drugs down your drain, or flush urine laced with pharmaceuticals, or a septic tanks leaks, drugs are tainting the water too.

The concern is that minute amount of pharmaceuticals have a cumulative effect on humans and wildlife and the environment that no one is aware of, monitoring for or trying to find ways to avoid.  

The findings include:

* New  York City where anti-convulsants, estrogen, a mood stabilizer and antibiotics were found in the city’s watershed.

* Philadelphia where pain medication, infection and high cholesterol drugs, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart medications were all found in the treated drinking water

* Southern California where anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications were found in the water that serves more than 18 million residents.

* Northern New Jersey region had angina medicine and mood-stabilizer carbamazepine in the drinking water.

* In Arlington, Texas where one pharmaceutical was found, Mayor Robert Cluck refused to name it to USA Today citing information that could be helpful to terrorists.

"I don't want to take that chance," Cluck said. "There is no public hazard and I don't want to create one."

*  Taking a different approach to alerting the public is Milwaukee, which posted an 11-page detailed report on its web site including results for 450 unregulated contaminants. Milwaukee had a nicotine derivative, cotinine.

* Then there are communities such as Albuquerque, New Mexico which turned up no pharmaceuticals in the water.

Treatment plants do no screen out pharmaceuticals or personal care products.  In Gwinnett County, Georgia, water officials say they use ozone to kill bacteria in the water and pharmaceuticals, but Atlanta water was found to contain 16 pharmaceuticals.

Senator Barbara Boxer predicts that the hearings will be conducted next month. She heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and expressed alarm at the news. Senator Frank Lautenberg, chair of the Transportation, Safety, Infrastructure Security and Water Quality Subcommittee joins Sen.. Boxer in expressing deep concern about the issue. Both Senators represent states that have pharmaceuticals in the water.

The EPA was not available for comment Monday when the study came out, but Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the agency told the AP that this “is a growing concern and we’re taking it very seriously.”

He said the EPA encourages water utilities around the country to share information about their water with communities; however there is no requirement to do so if the contaminant is not named under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

When asked how that’s going, he answered, “I think we have more work to do.”  #

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