The Drugs in Drinking Water Shocker

The Associated Press reported in early March that “a vast array of pharmaceuticals—including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones—have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.”

The story made headlines everywhere but it was not exactly new news. E reported extensively on it last year (see “Water Worries,” Currents, September/October 2007). And Environmental Health Perspectives reported in 2005, “Roughly 100 pharmaceuticals have now been identified in rivers, lakes and coastal waters throughout Europe and the U.S.”

The basic facts have been known for more than a decade, especially since the publication of Theo Colburn’s Our Stolen Future (written with Dianne Dumanoski and John Peterson Myers) in 1996. We’re being affected, they wrote, by manmade chemicals that can “alter sexual development
.undermine intelligence and behavior [and] make our bodies less resistant to disease.”

The AP story noted that drugs get in the water because people take pills, their bodies process some of that medication and then flush it down the toilet, where it ends up being discharged into rivers, lakes and streams.