Yahoo! News recently reported of an Associated Press investigation into the quality of drinking water that discovered minute amounts of pharmaceuticals including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones.
The EPA notes there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals. Some drugs even resist treatment processes.
Environmental officials have typically focused on regulated contaminants such as pesticides, lead, and PCBs that are found in higher concentrations.
Utilities insist their water is safe. Some cities even deny the existance of drugs in their water supply.
"More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world," states the report. There's also "evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic."
There has been little research into the impact on the environment. Deformities in fish have been noticed downstream of cattle feedlots that use anabolic steroids. Microscopic organisms at the bottom of the food chain are even more susceptible to trace amounts of drugs. Effects of longterm exposure on humans is unknown.
"Based on what we now know, I would say we find there's little or no risk from pharmaceuticals in the environment to human health," said microbiologist Thomas White, a consultant for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, according to the report.
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