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East New York

Prescription drugs in our water!

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By Jeff Donn, Martha Mendoza and Justin Pritchard, Associated Press

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.

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.

 

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, and New York City, from Detroit to Louisville.

 

Water providers rarely disclose results of pharmaceutical screenings, unless pressed, the AP found. For example, the head of a group representing major California suppliers said the public "doesn't know how to interpret the information" and might be unduly alarmed.

 

How do the drugs get into the water?

 

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.

 

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.

 

"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.

 

Members of the AP National Investigative Team reviewed hundreds of scientific reports, analyzed federal drinking water databases, visited environmental study sites and treatment plants and interviewed more than 230 officials, academics and scientists. They also surveyed the nation's 50 largest cities and a dozen other major water providers, as well as smaller community water providers in all 50 states.

 

Here are some of the key test results obtained by the AP:

 

• 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

 

The situation is undoubtedly worse than suggested by the positive test results in the major population centers documented by the AP.

 

The federal government doesn't require any testing and hasn't set safety limits for drugs in water. Of the 62 major water providers contacted, the drinking water for only 28 was tested. Among the 34 that haven't: Houston, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, Phoenix, Boston and New York City's Department of Environmental Protection, which delivers water to 9 million people.

 

Some providers screen only for one or two pharmaceuticals, leaving open the possibility that others are present.

 

The AP's investigation also indicates that watersheds, the natural sources of most of the nation's water supply, also are contaminated. Tests were conducted in the watersheds of 35 of the 62 major providers surveyed by the AP, and pharmaceuticals were detected in 28.

 

Yet officials in six of those 28 metropolitan areas said they did not go on to test their drinking water — Fairfax, Va.; Montgomery County in Maryland; Omaha; Oklahoma City; Santa Clara, Calif., and New York City.

 

The New York state health department and the USGS tested the source of the city's water, upstate. They found trace concentrations of heart medicine, infection fighters, estrogen, anti-convulsants, a mood stabilizer and a tranquilizer.

 

City water officials declined repeated requests for an interview. In a statement, they insisted that "New York City's drinking water continues to meet all federal and state regulations regarding drinking water quality in the watershed and the distribution system" — regulations that do not address trace pharmaceuticals.

 

In several cases, officials at municipal or regional water providers told the AP that pharmaceuticals had not been detected, but the AP obtained the results of tests conducted by independent researchers that showed otherwise. For example, water department officials in New Orleans said their water had not been tested for pharmaceuticals, but a Tulane University researcher and his students have published a study that found the pain reliever naproxen, the sex hormone estrone and the anti-cholesterol drug byproduct clofibric acid in treated drinking water.

 

Of the 28 major metropolitan areas where tests were performed on drinking water supplies, only Albuquerque; Austin, Texas; and Virginia Beach; said tests were negative. The drinking water in Dallas has been tested, but officials are awaiting results. Arlington, Texas, acknowledged that traces of a pharmaceutical were detected in its drinking water but cited post-9/11 security concerns in refusing to identify the drug.

 

The AP also contacted 52 small water providers — one in each state, and two each in Missouri and Texas — that serve communities with populations around 25,000. All but one said their drinking water had not been screened for pharmaceuticals; officials in Emporia, Kan., refused to answer AP's questions, also citing post-9/11 issues.

 

WHAT'S IN THE WATER?

 

At least one pharmaceutical was detected in tests of treated drinking water supplies for 24 major metropolitan areas, according to an Associated Press survey of 62 major water providers and data obtained from independent researchers.

 

Only 28 tested drinking water. Three of those said results were negative; Dallas says tests were conducted but results are not yet available. Thirty-four locations said no testing was conducted.

 

Test protocols varied widely. Some researchers looked only for one pharmaceutical or two; others looked for many.

 

Some water systems said tests had been negative, but the AP found independent research showing otherwise. Both prescription and non-prescription drugs were detected.

 

Because coffee and tobacco are so widely used, researchers say their byproducts are good indicators of the presence of pharmaceuticals. Thus, they routinely test for, and often find, both caffeine and nicotine's metabolite cotinine more frequently than other drugs.

 

TESTED POSITIVE

 

 

Arlington, Texas: 1 (unspecified pharmaceutical)

Atlanta: 3 (acetaminophen, caffeine and cotinine)

Cincinnati: 1 (caffeine)

Columbus, Ohio: 5 (azithromycin, roxithromycin, tylosin, virginiamycin and caffeine)

Concord, Calif.: 2 (meprobamate and sulfamethoxazole)

Denver: (unspecified antibiotics)

Detroit: (unspecified drugs)

Indianapolis: 1 (caffeine)

Las Vegas: 3 (carbamazepine, meprobamate and phenytoin)

Long Beach, Calif.: 2 (meprobamate and phenytoin)

Los Angeles: 2 (meprobamate and phenytoin)

Louisville: 3 (caffeine, carbamazepine and phenytoin)

Milwaukee: 1 (cotinine)

Minneapolis: 1 (caffeine)

New Orleans: 3 (clofibric acid, estrone and naproxen)

Northern New Jersey: 7 (caffeine, carbamazepine, codeine, cotinine, dehydronifedipine, diphenhydramine and sulfathiazole)

New York City: 16 (including a seizure drug, and an anti-anxiety drug)

Philadelphia: 56 (including amoxicillin, azithromycin, carbamazepine, diclofenac, prednisone and tetracycline)

Portland, Ore.: 4 (acetaminophen, caffeine, ibuprofen and sulfamethoxazole)

Riverside County, Calif.: 2 (meprobamate and phenytoin)

San Diego: 3 (ibuprofen, meprobamate and phenytoin)

San Francisco: 1 (estradiol)

Southern California: 2 (meprobamate and phenytoin)

Tucson: 3 (carbamazepine, dehydronifedipine and sulfamethoxazole)

Washington, D.C.: 6 (carbamazepine, caffeine, ibuprofen, monensin, naproxen and sulfamethoxazole)

 

 

Supposedly they say it's nothing we should worry about, but I want to know if there are any long term affects of taking in trace amounts of someone elses precription drugs!

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Sure there is. Could pick up an allergy later on too. Sad stuff like this is in our drinking water.

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Disgusting to find out that what we flush, some of it is treated as sent back to us to drink. Actually I seen a show about this. Turned sewer water into drinking water. They even have a portable one.

 

Back on topic, we shouldn't have so many health problems, since we get our medications anyway, by way of drinking water.

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