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Pharmaceutical Drugs: In Your Tap Water

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What is found in your tap water may surprise and disturb you.  Virtually all water sources in North America have tested positive for a wide range of pharmaceutical contaminants.

Pharmaceuticals in drinking water aren’t simply present – they’re abundant.

The industrial Revolution has resulted in an exponential growth in technology. The resulting technologies developed have created countless more industries. This unabated growth has resulted in almost complete disregard to the environmental impacts, to which we are only now starting to realize the negative implications on a very personal level. When considering these negative implications being felt on a personal level, what could be more personal then the pollution of the Earths Aquifers, Water Tables, Lakes and streams which are the very waters that we all depend on and consume daily?

Amongst all of the environmental impacts resulting from the industrial age, water contamination is one of its most sever. Many researchers believe contamination of the globes Aquifers and Water Tables will quickly be realized as the primary consequence to our unchecked and irresponsible growths throughout this era.  Aquifers globally (base water tables) are turning up reactive and toxic contaminants in alarming concentrations. Many of these contaminants do not break down for eons.

Perhaps the most concerning of all contaminants found in tap water is the ever increasing presence of pharmaceutical drugs & over the counter medications in virtually every water source tested throughout North America. This has created so much concern that the Associate Press picked up the trail and conducted their own full spectrum independent study, the results of which are very alarming Indeed. The Associated Press poured over hundreds of scientific reports, the Federal Drinking Water Databases were intricately reviewed, more than 230 Officials, Academics and Scientists were interviewed and the Nation’s 50 largest cities and twelve other major water sources were surveyed across North America.

Before we move on, you might be asking yourself; “how do the drugs people take get into the water I drink”? The answer; when an individual takes medication some is absorbed and the rest gets flushed down the toilet after being excreted from the body. This has been relentlessly repeated thousands (if not millions) of times each day in every city around the world for the past 15+ years. All of that “discharge” continually gathers and accumulates into reservoirs, rivers, lakes and Aquifers. The water then re-enters the drinking water system after being taken from the water gathering points (Aquifers) for consumption purposes and is then mildly treated at “drinking water treatment plants” and piped to the homes of every citizen it connects to. The major problem is that virtually none of these “drinking water treatment plants” are designed to remove Pharmaceutical contamination.

This unprecedented contamination from pharmaceutical drugs is not confined to the surface waters of the U.S. All surface water will eventually find its way into the natural Aquifers. If the surface water is contaminated, those same contaminants will permeate the aquifers deep underground. Its important to note that Aquifers are the estimated source of 40% of the U.S water supply. When Federal scientists tested the water in 24 states from aquifers in relative proximity to contaminant sources such as animal feed lots and landfills, findings of hormones, antibiotics and a wide range of other drugs were detected.  Testing of water sources far removed from contaminant sources also resulted in findings of a wide range of hormones and drugs.

This is just the start of what will be a huge problem in the near future as people keep taking more and more drugs. The Pharmaceutical usage of the U.S is rapidly rising. Over the past five years, the number of U.S. prescriptions rose 12% to a record 3.7 billion, while non-prescription drug purchases held steady around 3.3 billion, according to IMS Health and The Nielsen Co. It must also be taken into consideration that many medications will expire before ever being metabolized within the body. The majority of these “extra” pills will simply get flushed.

“People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that’s not the case,” said EPA scientist Christian Daughton, one of the first to draw attention to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water in the United States.

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Unbelievably, the Federal Government doesn’t require any testing for pharmaceuticals in drinking water and has set absolutely NO safety limits for drugs in water. So the “option” is then upon the individual treatment plant. Some drinking water filtration providers screen only for one or two pharmaceuticals, which lets all others pass through that are not removed. For example, in Canada, a study of 20 Ontario drinking water treatment plants by a national research institute found nine different drugs in water samples. Japanese health officials in December called for human health impact studies after detecting prescription drugs in drinking water at seven different sites.

“We recognize it is a growing concern and we’re taking it very seriously,” said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Associated Press Investigation also found that virtually all watersheds, which are the natural sources for the majority of the nation’s water supply, are also contaminated. The report indicated that in several cases, officials of residential water filtration providers claimed that pharmaceuticals had not been detected when they tested the water themselves.  The Associated Press then obtained the Test results from independent researchers that showed otherwise. For example, Published studies from Tulane University in New Orleans found the pain reliever naproxen, the sex hormone estrone and the anti-cholesterol drug by-product clofibric acid in treated drinking water. Contamination is not confined to the United States by any means. 100 + different pharmaceuticals were found in rivers, lakes, streams and reservoirs throughout the world. Studies have detected pharmaceuticals in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe and even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea.

Users of bottled water are far from safe from these contaminants as bottlers, some of which simply repackage tap water, do not typically treat or test for pharmaceuticals, according to the industry’s main trade group.

Here are some of the key test results obtained by the Associated Press:

• Testing in Philadelphia uncovered a reported 56 pharmaceuticals or its by-products in treated drinking water, including medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. Sixty-three pharmaceuticals or byproducts were found in the city’s watersheds.

• Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications were detected in a portion of the treated drinking water for 18.5 million people in Southern California.

• Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed a Passaic Valley Water Commission drinking water treatment plant, which serves 850,000 people in Northern New Jersey, and found a metabolized angina medicine and the mood-stabilizing carbamazepine in drinking water.

• A sex hormone was detected in San Francisco’s drinking water.

• The drinking water for Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas tested positive for six pharmaceuticals.

• Three medications, including an antibiotic, were found in drinking water supplied to Tucson.

The important thing to understand is that Pharmaceuticals are arguably more dangerous then other sources of water contamination simply because Pharmaceuticals are specifically“designed” to act on the human body and therefore this type of contaminant poses a unique and immanent danger to all persons consuming even very small amounts from tap water. Also our bodies may shrug off a big time dose of medication, the body and mind will surely suffer from smaller amounts delivered over a lifetime.

“These are chemicals that are designed to have very specific effects at very low concentrations. That’s what pharmaceuticals do. So when they get out to the environment, it should not be a shock to people that they have effects,” says John Sumpter at Brunel University in London, who has studied trace hormones, heart medicine and other drugs.

Its also very important to understand that when drugs are tested to be safe on humans, the time-frame for the test is usually over a matter of months, not over a lifetime. The span of human complications that can very realistically arise from this are staggering and should be of grave concern. Hormones can hamper development of our children through their pubescent years and impede upon reproduction capabilities later in life. Medicines for epilepsy and depression have been shown to cause behavioural changes and can cause damage to the brain. Antibiotics allow for germs to mutate to become “Super Bugs” etc…

“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.

Drugs in Drinking Water – References:

Associated Press, 5 month Comprehensive Case Study.

“The presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health…”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ‘Environmental Sciences Division, ORD/NERL, Las Vegas, Nevada USA; 2ESWE-lnstitute for Water Research and Water Technology, Wiesbaden-Schierstein, Germany Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment: Agents of Subtle Change? Christian G. Daughton1 and Thomas A. Ternes2

“This spectrum of chemicals, however, is only one piece of the larger puzzle in “holistic” risk assessment. Another diverse group of bioactive chemicals receiving comparatively little attention as potential environmental pollutants includes the pharmaceuticals and active ingredients in personal care products…”

Pawlowski Sascha, Ternes Thomas, Bonerz Martin, et al.: Combined in Situ and in Vitro Assessment of the Estrogenic Activity Sewage and Surface Water Samples. Toxicological Sciences 2003, 75:57-65.

“These so-called endocrine disruptors have been linked to changes in sex ratio, embryonic damage, and reduced fecundity in various vertebrate species, as well as to an increase in breast and testicular cancers in humans…”

Rahman SZ: Impact of Human Medicines on Environment – A New Emerging Problem. Population Envis 2006, 3(2):3-4. OpenURL

“We are living in an environment that is polluted not only by heavy metals, pesticides, and emissions from gasoline engines, but also with pharmaceutical chemicals…”

There has never been a greater need to be absolutely sure the water we are consuming and giving to our children is free of all contaminants, toxins and all traces of Pharmaceutical drugs. The most efficient and most economical way to ensure you and your loved ones are getting pure, healthy drinking water is with a Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System from Aquasafe. Reverse Osmosis Filters, Reverse Osmosis Membranes, and DI Resin Beads all work together to provide consistently 100% pure water.

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