Recent studies by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey have found small amounts of pharmaceuticals in our drinking water. The drugs found in drinking water were measured in parts per billion or trillion.
Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) make up a wide variety of chemical substances, including prescription, cosmetic, over-the-counter therapeutic drugs, fragrances and many others. PPCPs can be found in any water body effected by raw or treated sewage, including rivers, streams, ground water, and many drinking water sources.
These drugs and substances enter into the environment and our drinking water several ways:
- Medication residues pass out of the body and into sewer lines
- Some people flush unused medication down toilets or place them in the trash
- Several PPCPs remain after waste water treatments and cleansing by water treatment plants
According to Dr, Sarah Janssen, MD, PHD, and MPH, a science fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Ever since the late 1990s, the scientific community has recognized that pharmaceuticals, especially oral contraceptives, are found in sewage water and are potentially contaminating drinking water.” So, is there a health effect of drugs in drinking water?
Dr. Janssen says, “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.”
Dr. Janssen’s view is also confirmed by the EPA. Suzanne Rudzinski, deputy director for science and technology in the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, says “At this point we don’t have evidence of a health effect, although it’s an area of concern and one we will continue to look at.”
So what are consumers suppose to do while more studies are being done? Should you being using bottled water only? Well, first realize that about twenty-five percent of bottled water comes from the tap, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
If the bottled water is labeled “purified water” or “reverse osmosis” water, the water has gone through a treatment of distillation, reverse osmosis or other process. This can remove some of the PPCPs but also demineralizes the water and takes out the healthy components.
Several leading professionals from private organizations recommend a home filtration system to help reduce the drug levels. Make no mistake, scientists and government officials can’t say for sure if the level of drugs in drinking water is low enough to have an adverse human health effect. So take some time and find out which filtration systems can help to remove PPCPs.