Pharmaceuticals In Our Drinking Water

Drugs in Drinking WaterTested positive for drugs lately? Yeah, everybody’s doing it, even if they don’t inhale.

The big commotion is over an Associated Press investigation of American drinking water:

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.

The AP report goes on to fill in the blanks, just in case the picture isn’t clear: People take pills. The medication passes through their bodies and into the sewers, maybe via one of these super-duper fancy toilets. It comes out the other end of the toilet as wastewater, which is a nicer word for the two things most often found in a diaper.

Drinking Toilet WaterThis wastewater runs through a sewer to a wastewater plant where it’s treated and then dumped into a reservoir/river/lake. Then, other cities pump water out of the reservoir/river/lake, clean it up a bit, and pipe it to your refrigerator’s chilled water dispenser.

But don’t worry, because, as columnist Gordon Dillow points out, the amounts of pharmaceutical drugs found in the drinking water were “tiny” and are measured in “parts per billion.” For example: in Orange County, California, you’d have to drink 250,000 gallons of water to get a 100-milligram dose of a popular mood stabilizing drug called carbamazepine.

The Big Wastewater Swimming Pool

P-GuardBut that’s a small comfort, because I don’t think it’s the amount of drugs in the water that has shocked so many readers. I think it’s the realization that they are drinking from the same giant swimming pool into which we’ve all been relieving ourselves.

The lightbulb has turned on, and millions who never thought this thought before are now pondering it: before my drinking water becomes drinking water, it flows downhill, but it’s certainly not the only thing that flows downhill.

Thus, people who turn squeamish in the face at the mention of astronauts drinking recycled water on the International Space Station, are coming to realize the Earth is very literally just a spaceship, and every ounce of water we drink has passed through another person’s plumbing.

Paranoid BushCo and the EPA

Bush Drinks WaterAnd, if you’re wondering what turns the Bush administration squeamish, there’s this clue:

While [Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] said the EPA had analyzed 287 pharmaceuticals for possible inclusion on a draft list of candidates for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, he said only one, nitroglycerin, was on the list. Nitroglycerin can be used as a drug for heart problems, but the key reason it’s being considered is its widespread use in making explosives.

That’s right! The EPA doesn’t care about the other 286 body and mind tainting drugs Americans are drinking. But they want to screen for nitroglycerin, otherwise, those dadburn terrorists might just bomb us with our own drinking water! Shazam!

And humans aren’t the only creatures drinking the drug-laden wastewater.

In a landmark, seven-year study of a Canadian lake published last year, researchers deliberately dripped the active ingredient in birth control pills into the water in amounts similar to those found to have contaminated aquatic life, plants and water in nature. The result:

After just seven weeks, male fathead minnows began producing yolk proteins, their gonads shrank, and their behavior was feminized — they fought less, floating passively. They also stopped reproducing, resulting in “ultimately, a near extinction of this species from the lake,” said the scientists.

The “glass is half full” takeaway is this: if Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the chickenhawk neocons continue to pollute their own drinking water, they too may experience shrinking gonads, fight less, and stop reproducing.

Amen to that.

[tags]pharmaceuticals, drugs in drinking water, EPA, environment, wastewater[/tags]

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