Drugs in the Drinking Water

Scientists don"t yet know the long-term health effects of trace pharmaceuticals in drinking water.© Getty Images

A recent investigation by reporters from the Associated Press (AP) found that a wide variety of pharmaceuticals—including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, sex hormones and over-the-counter painkillers—are present in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans across 24 major metropolitan areas from coast to coast. While the amounts of pharmaceuticals in any given sample may be tiny, scientists are worried that regular and cumulative exposure to even small amounts of mixed drugs could have subtle or more serious health effects on a large number of people over time.

Most of the pharmaceuticals in the water supply end up there when medication is not fully absorbed by the people taking it, and ends up passing through and getting flushed down the toilet. While such wastewater is treated for contaminants before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes, some drug residues remain.

Drinking bottled water—40 percent of which is derived from municipal tap water supplies—provides no insurance against ingesting unwanted medication. And if municipal water systems do not have the firepower to remove such pharmaceuticals from drinking water supplies, neither do home filtration systems designed to treat water after it comes out of the tap.

So what’s a health-conscious water drinker to do? How about moving? Of the 28 major U.S. metro areas examined by the AP, only Albuquerque, Austin and Virginia Beach tested negative for pharmaceuticals in municipal drinking water supplies.

Source: AP Probe Finds Drugs in Drinking Water