You’ve read the stories about medical waste like syringes washing up on the shores of public beaches. While this is alarming enough, now a similar threat is turning up in our water supplies. Drugs are being found in water supplies across the country. But how do pharmaceutical drugs get in drinking water?
Initially, individuals take drugs in a pill or other format. While the human body absorbs most of the medication, a good portion of the drug is eliminated as body waste and is flushed into the sewer system. Next, this wastewater is treated before it is released into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. After that, some of the water is treated at drinking water treatment facilities and then routed to public water supplies. But what happens is that only a large amount of the treatment plants do not effectively remove all drug particles.
You might have seen the recent headline: AP probe finds drugs in drinking water? Such media attention literally rocked the government and environmental community. It all started when the Associate Press began a five-month investigation to learn what’s in our drinking water. The agency found that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas like New York City, Philadelphia and Detroit; to name a few.
So what are the risks from having these medications in our water? While researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of slow exposure to different combinations of pharmaceuticals, recent studies have found disturbing effects on human cells and animals.
We already asked the question how do pharmaceutical drugs get in drinking water? So how do we get them out? One technology is called reverse osmosis. It removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants. However, it is highly expensive when used on a big scale. Plus, it also leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made clean. And finally, this process strips water of really essential minerals that our body’s need.
Other treatment processes add chorine to water to get rid of the drugs. But that method has its drawbacks too. There’s proof that adding chlorine to water makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic. Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically set up to remove pharmaceuticals.
With the lack of resources available to filter the drugs out of water, how harmful is it? So much is still unknown. Many independent scientists are skeptical that trace concentrations of drugs will prove harmful to humans. Such reasoning has been established because the studies conducted poisoned the lab animals with much higher doses of the drugs.
When a probe finds drugs in drinking water, it causes experts to look deeper into the long-term effects on people. For example, there’s the issue abut how the drugs and the combinations of drugs can harm humans over decades because water, unlike most specific foods, is consumed in large amounts on a daily basis.
This recent topic as of late is “how do pharmaceutical drugs get in drinking water?” but for many decades, federal environmental officials and non-profit watchdog groups were focused on how contaminants in water. Such substances as pesticides, lead, PCBs were the big concerns of the past.
Today, the scientific community is worried about the long-term implications of this problem. The fact of the matter is that our bodies can resist a relatively big dose of medication in one shot. But our systems can suffer from smaller doses ingested continuously over periodic use. This can slowly mess with our allergies or cause nerve damage. What’s more, women who are expecting, senior citizens and those who are weak and very ill might be much more sensitive.
If you walk away with only one thing from reading this, be safer with what your drink. Look into a home water purification device or contact your local water authority to see where you stand in this mess. In fact, some of the experts feel that medications may pose a unique danger because, unlike most pollutants, because they were designed to specifically affect the human body.
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