Drugs contaminate our drinking water

Environmentalists are on a mission to rid the planet of plastic water bottles. According to Beverage Digest, retail sales of bottled water (excluding vending and Wal-Mart) grew only 9 percent in 2007 compared with 16 percent in 2006.   They may want to re-think their advice to bottled water manufacturers on the heels of an Associated Press (AP) investigation of drinking water in the 50 largest cities and smaller community providers in all 50 states. According to AP, a vast array of pharmaceuticals - including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones - have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. And although concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are small (measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion), one has to wonder about the combined assault on our bodies over time. Americans take drugs - and flush them unmetabolized or unused - in growing amounts. Over the past five years, the number of U.S. prescriptions rose 12 percent to a record 3.7 billion; while nonprescription drug purchases held steady around 3.3 billion, according to IMS Health and The Nielsen Co. "People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that's not the case," EPA scientist Christian Daughton, one of the first to draw attention to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water in the U.S., told AP. The drugs end up in the drinking water, but the federal government doesn't require any testing for them and hasn't set safety limits. Of the 62 major water providers contacted, the drinking water for only 28 was tested. Among the 34 that haven't been tested are: Houston, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, Phoenix, Boston and New York City's Department of Environmental Protection, which delivers water to 9 million people. Watersheds, the natural sources of most of the nation's water supply, also are contaminated, according to the investigation. Tests were conducted in the watersheds of 35 of the 62 major providers surveyed by the AP, and pharmaceuticals were detected in 28. But don’t move abroad just yet. Contamination is not confined to the U.S. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. Pharmaceuticals have been detected in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe - even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea. Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes, and the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals. There’s also now evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic. "We know we are being exposed to other people's drugs through our drinking water, and that can't be good," says Dr. David Carpenter, who directs the Institute for Health and the Environment of the State University of New York at Albany. AOL Health