Prescription Drugs Detected in Drinking Water

We have recently heard about the contaminated waters in the Elk River in West Virginia due to leaking toxic materials.  But for years now, our water sources have been the recipient of other potentially harmful elements: prescription drugs.

I have written in the past that pharmaceutical drugs are a predominant fixture in our society.  They are so prevalent, however,  that they have started to seep into our environment.  According to several sources,

Traces of prescription drugs—including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones—have been detected in drinking water.  (Wikipedia, USA Today, Sunday Telegraph)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did a study and found that the level of drugs found in our water supply is much higher than previously thought:

Specifically, more than half the samples of waste water from major cities tested by the EPA tested positive for at least 25 drugs. “We were surprised to find that many drugs occurring across all the waste water plants,” EPA research biologist Mitchell Kostich told The New Republic. “We were also surprised to see so many drugs of a particular class – the high blood pressure medications — appear at those levels across the board.” – See more at: http://healthydebates.com/25-plus-drugs-half-americas-drinking-water/#sthash.pWqKQ5Pl.dpuf
How, you may ask, do these drugs get into our water system?  Think about it:  the drugs are in our system, they are in our waste as well.  We are told to flush unused drugs down the toilet.  Right there are two sources.
In a survey conducted by CBS:
Researchers [found] that nearly 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, and more than half receive at least two prescriptions, reports CBS Atlanta.
This adds up to a lot of pharmaceuticals being dumped into our water systems.

If these chemicals are being found in our drinking water, they have to be entering other parts of the eco-system as well, ie, the fish we eat.

These findings frighten me.  We speak about the war on drugs and yet one could make a case that the biggest culprits are those who “push” pharmaceutical drugs on the unaware general public.  The irony is that the “pusher” is probably not fully cognizant of his/her role in the whole sordid picture or, at least,  I certainly hope not. Every time a doctor writes a prescription, he/she is potentially creating an addict. Think about it. How often have you heard a doctor stop something he/she has prescribed for a “chronic” situation such as high blood pressure (one of the highest levels of drugs found in our water systems) or high cholesterol?

Both of these “chronic” situations can be alleviated by exercise, eating properly, and removing oneself from stressful situations. But in the world we inhabit today, we take pills. Our doctors prescribe them and he/she must know that it is important to take these pills for our health.  Also, let’s face it: pills are so much easier to pop than going to the gym or preparing a meal…. and, it takes so much less time….. and, God knows, time is a luxury these days.  To add insult to injury, in spite of knowing that these pills may have potentially nasty side effects, we continue to push them into our mouths and swallow.

Many of the drugs we take have been presented to us as something we will need to take for the rest of our lives.  As an example, blood pressure medication.  Doctors caution, in no uncertain terms that once one starts taking blood pressure medication, they need to remain on it for the rest of their lives.  However, this may not be true.

Take the story of my mother-in-law. She had been on blood pressure medication since her 50′s. Her blood pressure probably had spiked as she entered menopause. The doctor had told her that she had to take the blood pressure pills for the rest of her life. When she had moved in with us, she had been taking this prescription drug for high blood pressure for over thirty-five years. Everyone assumed that these drugs were working beautifully because her blood pressure was normal.

One day, as fate would have it, she came down with pneumonia. She eventually recovered because of the miracle drug: antibiotics.

About ten days after my mother-in-law returned home, her doctor noted that somehow her blood pressure pills had not been resumed. Lo and behold, her blood pressure was still normal. He told us not to resume them. Who knows when she could have actually quit? But worse, think about how many people are on high blood pressure pills in our country today and how many might not need to be? A financial boom for the pharmaceutical companies, certainly.  Yet also, according to the EPA study, one of the most prevalent drugs found in our water systems.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2014

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. dkzody says:

    Oh, drugs. I am so opposed to all the medications doctors hand out, willy-nilly. But, that’s another topic.

    As for disposing of old drugs, it’s not made easy. When a friend died with over 15 pill bottles on her dining room table, we were told to take them back to the pharmacy where she bought them. They were a bit shocked when I hauled that huge sack into their store, but they took them. Then, I found one more bottle in the bottom of her purse when I was cleaning it out so took it to my own pharmacy. They refused to take it. Not because it wasn’t mine, but because they have to pay a high fee for disposal. They said I might be able to drop it off at a fire station, but otherwise, there was nothing they could do. Since the bottle only contained 3 pills, I threw it in the trash, with misgivings.

    • yvonne says:

      Unfortunately, our country and the pharmaceuticals never thought about what would happen when people died or just how many people are taking enumerable pills. This is a classic example of things backing up and coming back to haunt us. I also see this as part of the bigger shortsightedness that has always been a part of the make up of our country and that is to always look forward –and not in the way the native americans do in which they caution that all actions need to take into account the next seven generations, but rather focusing on what’s new, what’s new, what’s new.

  2. Sarah says:

    Yvonne thanks for sharing this article.. We gotta be more careful with everything especially with our water, we drink it everyday! Very useful information.

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