Our Water

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for tap and public water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).[43] The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water as a food product under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).[44] Bottled water is not necessarily more pure, or more tested, than public tap water.[45] Peter W. Preuss, head of the U.S. EPA’s division analyzing environmental risks, has been “particularly concerned” about current drinking water standards, and suggested in 2009 that regulations against certain chemicals should be tightened.[46]
In 2010 the EPA showed that 54 active pharmaceutical ingredients and 10 metabolites had been found in treated drinking water. An earlier study from 2005 by the EPA and the Geographical Survey states that 40% of water was contaminated with nonprescription pharmaceuticals, and it has been reported that of the 8 of the 12 most commonly occurring chemicals in drinking water are estrogenic hormones.[47] Of the pharmaceutical components found in drinking water, the EPA only regulates lindane and perchlorate. In 2009, the EPA did announce another 13 chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics that could potentially be regulated. The decision on whether or not they are sufficiently harmful to be regulated may not be decided upon until 2012 as it takes time for testing.
On June 24, 2013, researchers from Duke University reported detecting methane in drinking water in Pennsylvania and claim “serious contamination from bubbly methane is ‘much more’ prevalent in some water wells within 1 kilometer of gas drilling sites”. The researchers noted that methane levels were “an average of six times” higher and ethane levels were “23 times higher” in the water wells “closer to drilling sites, compared with those farther away.”[48]

43: Pub.L. 93-523; 42 U.S.C. § 300f et seq. December 16, 1974.
44: June 25, 1938, ch. 675, 52 Stat. 1040; 21 U.S.C. § 301 et seq.
45: EPA. “Ground water and drinking water – Customer Service.” Accessed 2010-10-26.
46: Duhigg, Charles (2009-12-16). “That Tap Water Is Legal but May Be Unhealthy”. New York Times. p. A1.
47: Biological Water Filters says:. “Pharmaceuticals in the Water Supply: Is this a threat? – Water Matters – State of the Planet”. Blogs.ei.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
48: Begos, Kevin (24 June 2013). “Studies find methane in Pa. drinking water”. AP News. Retrieved 25 June 2013.


Is there a health effect of drugs in drinking water?

All sides of the debate agree this is not known for sure. “At this point we don’t have evidence of a health effect,” Rudzinski says, “although it’s an area of concern and one we will continue to look at.”

Janssen agrees: “We don’t know. It’s true that the levels [of the medications found in drinking water] are very low. But especially when it comes to pharmaceuticals that are synthetic hormones, there is concern, because hormones work at very low concentrations in the human body.”

“We don’t want people to be alarmed and think they can’t drink their tap water or that they shouldn’t be drinking water,” Janssen says. “We think this report in particular is a call for our federal agencies — EPA in particular — to do further studies to see what the health effects are.”

EPA’s ongoing research is focusing on the effect of pharmaceuticals in the water supply on aquatic life and human health, Rudzinski says. But she could not supply details of how much money is being allocated to that research effort or when to expect answers.

Again, it’s not known, Janssen says. “We know that kids, including babies and toddlers, as well as fetuses, are more susceptible to environmental exposures because their bodies are still developing and their exposure on a pound-per-pound basis is higher. And they lack the detoxification system adults have. So it is not unreasonable to expect they would be at higher risk.”
Source: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/drugs-in-our-drinking-water


Drugs in New York’s Waters
How drugs get into our waters and why DEC is concerned
Until recently, consumers have been told to flush unwanted drugs. With technological advances and research, low levels of drugs are being found in our surface waters. We know that some drugs pass largely unaltered through our wastewater treatment plants and enter rivers and other waters. Drugs from heath care facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities and farms can also find their way into the water. Although the health and environmental consequences are still being studied, we do know that:

Research has shown that continuous exposure to low levels of medications has altered the behavior and physiology of fish and aquatic life.
Flushed medications have been found our lakes, rivers and streams
A nationwide study done in 1999 and 2000 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) found low levels of drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids in 80% of the rivers and streams tested.
Fish and other aquatic wildlife are being adversely affected
Studies have shown that male fish have been feminized (produced eggs) when exposed to hormones (birth control pills). Other drugs, such as anti-depressants and beta-blockers, reduce fertility or affect spawning in certain aquatic organisms. Even expired medications can cause these effects.
Drug-resistant bacteria might develop
Long-term exposure to low levels of antibiotics might result in the evolution of, or selection for, drug-resistant microbes and bacteria.
Source: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/45083.html


Traces of Drugs Found in Drinking Water

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You cannot taste them. You cannot see them. But scientists say they are there: traces of prescription drugs in the water that comes from many people’s faucets.

“Everything from antidepressants to heart medication to birth control pills to caffeine” has been found in certain drinking water, said Dr. Brian Buckley, environmental scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

In his lab in New Brunswick alone, Buckley has found acne medication, barbiturates, caffeine and birth control medication in the water system.

While most of the medicines we take are absorbed by our bodies, he said, traces do escape via human waste and are flushed into our treatment plants, winding up in the water supply.

While the long-term health risks are unclear, there is evidence that medicines in the water, as well as hormones and chemicals, have negatively affected frogs and fish.

“The concern is we don’t know what these chemicals do in the body over a lifetime of exposure,” Buckley said.

Utility companies say that medicines can be found in the drinking water, but at levels so low that there is little danger. They say the only reason people even know about it now is because the technology has been developed to detect minute traces.

“One could safely consume 50,000 glasses of water a day without any adverse health effects,” said Alan Roberson, director of security and regulatory affairs at the Denver-based American Water Works Association, which advocates for improved water quality and supply.

Even though the traces are minimal, Buckley warns that it is possible there may be potential hazards associated with long-term exposure to small compounds over one’s lifetime.

“It is probably better to be safe than sorry,” Buckley said. “And, in addition, there may be drug-drug interaction, even though the concentrations are very low.”

While the government does not require water treatment plants to test for pharmaceuticals, there was enough concern to justify Congressional hearings in September to discuss emerging contaminants in U.S. waters.

“I am very concerned,” said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y. “We don’t know for sure if it’s having an effect on human beings and that’s what we’re trying to find out.”

Some researchers, like Buckley, say it’s necessary to investigate the water supply; if prescription drugs take action on the body in pill form, they’re likely to have some effect when absorbed through another medium like water.

There are ways to protect oneself. ABC News asked researchers to test a widely available water filter for the home. They found it greatly reduced the traces of drugs in the water.

And communities across the country are creating drop-off locations where people can bring expired drugs to be incinerated, preventing them from ending up in rivers and streams and contaminating the water supply.

“I used to flush unused Ibuprofen down the toilet rather than have my small children consume them,” said Kirsten Calia, a mother from Connecticut. “But now I know that there are great environmental ramifications to this.”
Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/t/story?id=6040196


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