Drugs Found in Drinking Water

Not a Good RX for Health and Wellness

You have aches and pains, but consider yourself very lucky that you are in overall good health. In fact, if you can avoid it, you don’t take any prescription medications and also try to limit your intake of over-the-counter pills. So why would you want to drink water that contains unknown drugs that you don’t need and that may put you at risk of developing health problems? That might be exactly what you are doing, since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that a host of unregulated pharmaceuticals have been found in our nation’s drinking supplies, and in greater doses than acknowledged ever before.

To date, no major studies have been done on the potential health risks to humans of pharmaceuticals in drinking water

The EPA has a category called Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products as Pollutants (PPCPs), which in general include any product used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons or used by agribusiness to enhance growth or health of livestock. Thousands of diverse chemical substances are classified as PPCPs.

Major Sources of PPCPs in Drinking Water

  • Human activity (Bathing, shaving, swimming)
  • Illicit drug use
  • Veterinary drug use, especially antibiotics and steroids
  • Agribusiness
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing (well defined and controlled)
  • Residue from hospitals

Since the 1990s, the science community has recognized that drugs, especially oral contraceptives, are found in sewage water and potentially contaminating drinking water. Here are a few recent documented instances from reputable news sources. These reports are disconcerting, leaving one to question the safety of drinking water, not only in the U.S., but in countries all over the world.

  • Recent research has revealed that at least 46 million Americans are being supplied water that has tested positive for pharmaceuticals.
  • The drinking water in major California cities including Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Diego tested positive for the drugs phenytoin and risperidone, among others.
  • In a recent study, water samples were taken from 50 large nationwide water treatment facilities. Researchers found that more than half of the facilities tested positive for at least 25 drugs. High blood pressure medications were found most frequently and in the highest concentrations.
  • Studies of water near universities have found spikes in amphetamine (taken illicitly by many students to enhance their studying) during exam periods.
  • Daily sampling in Hengchun, Taiwan during the week of a big music fest called Spring Scream, found increased amounts of drugs like ecstasy, ketamine, and caffeine in the water, as well as acetaminophen and pseudoephedrine. The annual fest draws more than 600,000 young, and often hard partying music fans to the beach town.
  • Scientists in the U.K. discovered traces of cocaine in the water supply even after it had been intensively purified.

To date, no major studies have been done on the potential health risks to humans of pharmaceuticals in drinking water. Experts recommend the installation of a high quality water filter system which at the very least, will make drinking water much safer. For optimum results, it would be best to also install a shower filter, or a whole-house filter, because these drugs can also be absorbed through the skin when you bathe and shower.

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