Almost since the introduction of pesticides, scientists have been detecting them in drinking water and implicating them in health problems. A new concern has arisen, that being the presence of drugs in water supplies.
According to a 2008 investigation by the Associated Press, an array of pharmaceutical drugs, including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones, have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.
In addition to prescription medication, over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen have also been detected. The study did not look for street drugs, such as heroin or methamphetamine, but it’s reasonable to expect their presence as well. The drugs enter the water supply one of two ways; either people excrete them through urination, or they flush unused medication down the toilet.
In the course of the five-month study, the AP learned that drugs had been previously discovered in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas; from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, and from Detroit to Atlanta.
For example, officials in Philadelphia confirmed that they had detected 56 pharmaceuticals in treated drinking water, including medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. According to the AP report, contamination is not confined to the United States. Over 100 different pharmaceuticals were discovered in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world.
Although some of the drug residue is removed at water treatment plants, most is not. Even people who drink bottled water and use home filtration systems may not be safe. Some bottlers simply repackage tap water, or don’t test for pharmaceuticals. Home filtration systems don’t remove drugs either, with the exception of reverse osmosis, which removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants.