By Dave Stancliff
Did you know that when you drink water from public waterways there’s a chance you may also be ingesting a potpourri of pharmaceuticals? Our waterways are slowly being poisoned with active ingredients like lithium, nitroglycerin and copper.
Trace elements of a wide-range of pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones were found in the nation’s waterways last year, according to an Associated Press (AP) report.
A recent AP investigative report (PharmaWater) exposed what many environmental groups have said for years; American manufacturers, including major drug-makers, have legally released millions of pounds of pharmaceuticals into the nation’s drinking water.
At least 271 million pounds of drugs have contaminated water systems, according to the AP investigation. The federal government and industry officials have no idea how dire the situation is because they don’t track that kind of data.
Our government doesn’t keep track of what goes into the nation’s drinking water. Here I thought at least the Department of Homeland Security would test it. Apparently I was wrong.
Here’s another scary thought to add to the mix; after looking at 20 years of partial records the government kept for another reason, it turns out the estimated number of 271 million pounds is a massive understatement!
Limited government tracking has exposed only part of the volume spewed into the nation’s waterways. Twenty-two compounds that show up on two lists were identified in the AP report.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors a list of industrial chemicals released under federal standards that cover rivers, lakes and other bodies of water. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies them as active pharmaceutical ingredients.
Now here’s some food for thought: consumers are considered the biggest contributors to contamination of our waterways! We consume drugs, then excrete what our bodies don’t absorb.
Plus, we dump unused drugs down toilets.
Some blame goes to hospitals and long-term care facilities. They throw away an estimated 250 million pounds of pharmaceuticals and contaminated packaging, according to the AP report. No matter how you cut it, drugs find their way into our waterways.
Why don’t I feel comforted by the scientists, doctors and the EPA who say there are no confirmed human risks associated with consuming minute concentrations of drugs? Pin those experts to the wall and they will admit dangers can’t be ruled out because of emerging research.
This research can’t emerge fast enough for me. Right now there’s no pressure on industry or drug-makers to clean up their act. Pharmaceutical makers are often excused from even having to file an environmental review for new products. The FDA has never rejected a drug application based on potential environmental impact, according to the AP report.
There are some studies going on. For example, the one with the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey, monitor sewage at treatment plants that receive wastewater from drug-making factories. These studies will be compared against sewage at treatment plants that don’t get wastewater from the drug-makers.
Meanwhile millions of Americans will drink water that may prove to be lethal when ingested for many years. Environmental groups have issued warnings for a long time. We should effectively treat and/or stop the flow of pharmaceutical waste into our waterways right now. Not just look at emerging evidence.
There’s no use pointing fingers. We all know this issue of safe drinking water has been submerged for so long because of corporate greed and politicians who turn their back on the people when it comes to industry’s desires.
There are still safe water systems in smaller communities that use well water. Even so, they face a growing challenge as the populations they serve expand. I’m not ready to run though the streets shouting that the sky is falling yet.
As It Stands, I still think it’s a good idea to keep your eyes wide open!