Got Pharma-gunk?

Next time you enjoy a nice glass of drinking water, please be aware that you're likely to be ingesting some of the following "extras" with every sip:

  • estrogen and other sex hormones
  • sedatives
  • pain medications
  • psychiatric meds
  • anti-convulsants
  • antibiotics
  • mood stabilizers
A new Associated Press study on pharmaceuticals in America's drinking water supply cites the following "fun facts" from around the US of A.
--Officials in Philadelphia said testing there discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts 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, Ariz.

How could this be happening? Here's the polite way of putting it, from the AP article:
"People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue."

Given that, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average American received more than 11 prescriptions in 2006 (that's more than 3 billion prescriptions, total, for one year alone), we're talking massive influx of pharma-gunk into our water supply. Yum!

We've been reading for years about the effects of infusing our water supply with pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and personal care products, but the focus has mostly been on three-headed frogs, intersex frogs, intersex fish, and other harm to wildlife. But who cares about wildlife?Now it seems, the intersex chickens are coming home to roost—in our gastrointestinal tracts. Let's call this a case of getting our "just desserts" until we clean up our act.

Read the whole sordid, filthy, horrifying and yet unsurprising story here and (for the New York angle, here.)

If you're a bit blue after doing so, calm yourself down with a nice, cool, sedative-laced, mood-stabilizing glass of water.Watch this while you're at it, for some fun at the expense of big pharma, bringer of such wonders as Seasonale, which the SNL clip below lampoons.

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