Out of all the tap water contaminants that are out there, pharmaceuticals (along with MTBE) have been analyzed the least. It has only been relatively recently that scientists discovered the variety and extent of pharmaceuticals in tap water. In case you didn’t have enough things to worry about regarding the purity of your H2o, here is one more to throw on top. In this post, we will talk about the severity of this problem and whether or not it should be something of serious concern.
Several decades ago, evidence started emerging that trace amounts of drugs were ending up in ground water. This makes sense after all, some amount of all drugs is excreted through the urine. Nobody really knew at the time what quantities were ending up in the ground water nor did they know what the possible health consequences would be. The EPA actually discovered trace amounts of caffeine and aspirin in waste from a sewage plant, but they didn’t do any further investigating.
Later, in Europe, a German chemist began to seriously look into the issue of pharmaceuticals in ground water. He found 30 different drugs in the water. These included antibiotics, anti-depressants and cholesterol lowering drugs. Later studies in America confirmed these findings and the alarm bells started to sound. More troubling, scientists started finding hormone enhancing drugs in trace amounts as well. For more on the various studies that have been completed, see this article from the University of Arizona.
Ok, so we know there are trace amounts of drugs in our water. The next question is of course whether this situation is dangerous or harmful to our health. This is where things get tricky. Most scientists have concluded that any short-term exposure to drugs in this amount (40 parts per trillion, for example) will not have any health consequences.
There is not conclusive evidence, however, regarding long-term effects of repeated exposure to trace amounts of drugs in water. What’s more, some scientists believe there could be an interactive effect wherein the trace amounts won’t do anything on their own, but in combination with other trace amounts and possibly other drugs that you may be actually taking, there could be a negative effect. Finally, the fact there are many hormone enhancing drugs that are making their way into the water – well, scientists aren’t exactly sure what the effect will be just yet.
All of this is to say, why not purify your water? Get a decent filter and you can sleep easy knowing that, regardless of what the studies say, you won’t be drinking trace amounts of pharmaceuticals.
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/59937401@N07/6127242068/