RX on Tap? Drugs Found in Drinking Water

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What's in your drinking water? Anti-biotics, mood stabilizers -- even sex hormones.

They're among the dozens of prescription drugs found in the drinking supply of two dozen major American cities.

The discovery is raising new questions about the possible long-term consequences to your health.

And it's enough to make a person think twice before taking another sip.

"There are products leaching into the system that the city or the state or the government are not attending to and it could reach a faucet like mine without us knowing about it," said New York resident Allen Reiner.

The five-month study by The Associated Press found that tap water from 24 big cities have trace amounts of pharmaceuticals, far below the levels for a medical dosage, but enough to raise eyebrows.

Testing in Philadelphia, showed 56 pharmaceuticals in treated drinking water, including pain medication, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and medicines to treat heart problems and mental illness.

And anti-anxiety medication appeared in some of the treated water that serves nearly 20 million people in southern California.

Trace amounts make their way into the drinking supply because not all of it is absorbed from the body before wastewater is treated, cleansed and filtered back to the faucet.

"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.

Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.

The study found that even users of bottled water and home filtration systems aren't necessarily immune to exposure.

Right now, researchers don't have a handle on the risks that exist from years of low-level exposure to phamaceuticals, but some studies show small amounts of medication can affect human cells and even wildlife.

"We found that fish exposed to contaminants in the waste water have reduced testicular growth, reduced sperm quality, and altered hormone ratios," said Steve Goodbred with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Pharmaceutical companies say contamination is not a problem.

And the Environmental Protection Agency still insists that America's water supply is among the safest in the world.

Source: The Associated Press

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