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, an Associated Press investigation shows.Gee, ya think?
To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.
But 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.
And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies — which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public — have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.Get on it, Grumbles! Of course, because this is the EPA as run by the Bush administration, they're less concerned about independent tests having found antibiotics, anti-convulsants, anti-epileptics, anti-anxiety meds, anti-cholesterol drugs, sex hormones, anabolic steroids, tranquilizers, pain relievers, caffeine, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, a metabolized angina drug, the mood-stabilizing carbamazepine, and other various medicines for pain, infection, asthma, mental illness, and heart problems, and more concerned with—I shit you not—the heart med nitroglycerin because of "its widespread use in making explosives."
"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.
To the degree that the EPA is focused on the issue, it appears to be looking at detection. Grumbles acknowledged that just late last year the agency developed three new methods to "detect and quantify pharmaceuticals" in wastewater. "We realize that we have a limited amount of data on the concentrations," he said. "We're going to be able to learn a lot more."I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. We've gone from the Bush administration being worried terrorists would contaminate our water supply to the Bush administration being worried terrorists will use our contaminated water supply to build bombs from trace amounts of nitro.
While Grumbles said the EPA had analyzed 287 pharmaceuticals for possible inclusion on a draft list of candidates for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, he said only one, nitroglycerin, was on the list. Nitroglycerin can be used as a drug for heart problems, but the key reason it's being considered is its widespread use in making explosives.
Sure, the Safe Drinking Water Act won't make water safe for drinking, but it will damn sure make certain water isn't explosive!
Anyway, in more good news: "There's evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic" and, unlike pesticides, lead, and PCBs, whose presence in drinking water cause a health risk in high doses, "some experts say medications [even at very low concentrations] may pose a unique danger because, unlike most pollutants, they were crafted to act on the human body." Wheeeeee!
I'll leave the final word to Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment of the State University of New York at Albany: "We know we are being exposed to other people's drugs through our drinking water, and that can't be good."
Unless you're one of the 50 million Americans without healthcare, who can't afford to buy lifesaving meds out-of-pocket. Then it's awesome!