Flushed Drugs Emerging as Drinking Water Concern

Posted on November 26, 2012
Drugs in Drinking Water

Consumers often have to worry about the ever-growing list of possible contaminants that could be found in their drinking water. Now, new studies have revealed that the next generation of water pollutants might be coming to fruition within common drinking water sources – pharmaceutical drugs. According to The Columbus Dispatch, birth-control pills, antidepressants, blood-pressure medications and antibiotics are being increasingly found in many water sources. Scientists are starting to trace links between these contaminants when consumed through drinking water and potential health risks.

According to the news source, these pollutants are being referred to as emerging contaminants. However, the contaminants have actually been in streams, rivers and lakes for decades. The “emerging contaminants” phrase is a reference to the innovative technologies that have been developed to detect these unwanted chemicals that are found in drinking water sources. However, hospitals, pharmacies and factory farms have been dumping various pharmaceutical drugs and chemicals into waste water for years. Additionally, consumers have been known to dump unwanted medications down the toilet as well. Unfortunately, the waste water often seeps into drinking water supplies.

“You see very different effects with mixtures of contaminants as opposed to single compounds,” Paige Novak, a University of Minnesota environmental engineer. “I think some of these things are really subtle, and that makes them more difficult.”

According to the Consumer Health Information Corporation, one of the difficult obstacles in dealing with this issue is that many medicines are designed to avoid being broken down. While water treatment plants can remove many chemicals, some of these drugs are ultimately resistant to the water sanitation efforts undergone at water treatment facilities.

Additionally, some industry advocates have cited that the trace elements of contaminants found in the water ultimately doesn’t affect humans at all. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the pollutants that are dumped into water are typically measured in parts per trillion. That tiny metric is substantially smaller than the standard concentrations of other more common pollutants as delineated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for safe limits in drinking water.

However, a host of studies have emerged in recent years that suggest any amounts of pharmaceutical contaminants found in drinking water could have deleterious long-term health impacts. A 2010 Ohio River Study by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission found 158 compounds, including 118 pharmaceuticals and personal-care products, in the waterway. A 2010 U.S. Geological Survey study found trades of 12 antibiotics in the Scioto River, including three that had passed Columbus water treatment plants. the U.S. EPA is currently completing a survey looking for approximately 200 drugs at 50 different water sites.

Until the data from these studies are conclusive, consumers should consider installing bottleless water coolers from Quench. These coolers use five-stage carbon filtration to remove 99.9 percent of the contaminants found within water, including pharmaceuticals.

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