Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water
Drugs in My Drinking Water? An 2008 Associated Press five-month investigation, found pharmaceuticals in drinking water provided to at least 41 million people living in 24 major metropolitan areas in the United States. This report confirms the 2002 report by the U.S. Geological Survey that was the first nationwide study of pharmaceutical pollution in the nation's rivers and streams. Of the 95 chemicals the USGS measured, one or more were found in 80 percent of the streams sampled and about one-third of the streams contained 10 or more of the chemicals.
The drugs discovered included sex hormones, anti-epileptics, cardiac medications, cholesterol medications, drugs used to treat depression and mental illness, painkillers, mood altering drugs, tranquilizers, antibiotics, and caffeine. All of the reported pharmaceuticals in drinking water supplies are unregulated in treated tap water. Although the concentrations found by the AP research were miniscule, measured in parts per billion or sometimes in parts per trillion, any level is currently legal and The US Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate the type or concentration of any pharmaceuticals in drinking water in the United States. At current levels, these drug residues are unlikely to pose an immediate risk to human health, but the long-term consequences of individual chemicals, and combinations of chemicals, are unknown, especially as concentrations rise. How do these Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water get there? People take medications. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but because up to 90% of oral drugs are not absorbed, the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. "People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that's not the case," said EPA scientist Christian Daughton, one of the first to draw attention to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water in the United States. Of course, the dumping of old prescriptions into the sink or toilet is certainly another source. Many of these drugs do not biodegrade and may persist in the groundwater for years. What can we do to remove the Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water? Unfortunately, wastewater current treatment methods used in the United States just aren’t designed to remove most of the drugs, and much of the contaminated water is from nonpoint sources and is never treated. The technologies that can remove many of these chemicals are not common in the U.S drinking water treatment plants. The most effective treatment methods include advanced oxidation, membrane and nano-filtration, while the least effective method is chlorination, which is the most popular treatment in the U.S. Prevention is the best strategy for reducing contamination by pharmaceuticals in drinking water. Individuals can minimize overuse and misuse of drugs and return unused medications to pharmacies, rather than dump them down a drain. Fortunately there are technologies that will allow you to remove the unwanted drugs from your families drinking water. These technologies have been around for a long time and offer a very cost effective as well as an efficient means to purifying your families drinking water at home. These include: (1) Reverse Osmosis - RO for short – is a technology where water is pressurized against a membrane. The membrane allows only pure water can pass through. The contaminants are blocked and are flushed to the drain. Several studies have shown that RO units are capable of removing many of the commonly encountered pharmaceuticals in drinking water. The fact that most RO systems also incorporate carbon filtration positions it as a solid choice in removing drugs and pharmaceuticals from tap water. Reverse Osmosis systems for homes range in price from $250 to $1000. (2) Carbon cartridge filtration is a very popular way to filter water. It's relatively inexpensive and cartridges can be replaced with little time and effort. Activated carbon is one of the highest surface area, and most absorbent materials known. It will absorb a massive list of contaminants. Due to the fact that this problem is so new, there has not yet been sufficient testing of using carbon for removing these contaminants. But most experts expect that it will be shown that activated carbon will emerge as the best available technology for the removal of these contaminants. (3) Water Distillers are the oldest and most proven technology for removing contaminants from drinking water. Distillation is the process where water is vaporized and then condensed to create very pure, pollutant-free water. The result is very high quality drinking water that is free from all contaminants. Water distillers systems sell for about $400-$500.