More On The Pharmaceutical Contamination Of Drinking Water

Here’s a clip from Good Morning America on the contamination of drinking water from pharmaceuticals. Scary!

Good Morning America


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  1. DevPts says:

    Seriously ? Sounds a bit fear-monger-y. There is little or no substance to this story or the original from the AP. Where are the facts ?

  2. Trai_Dep says:

    Heard on NPR’s Air Talk that the amounts are measurable in parts per trillion.
    One of the reps for LA Water did a good job of context, since we’re not wired to deal with numbers that large (small). To get one adult dose, you would have to drink the equivalent of twenty two Olympic-sized swimming pools of water. A day.

    So, while I think there should be an education effort to tell people to not dump their meds in the sink or toilet, I don’t think there’s much that reasonable people should do. The reporting on this seems a tad sensationalistic.

  3. Heresy Of Truth says:

    This is really interesting because when I work as a floor nurse, we dispose of narcs using two nurses, flushing them down the toilet. (Two nurses, to make sure it’s all on the up and up.)

    In fact, most of the meds get flushed. I remember one of my patients had a pile of old risperidol, that went out of date shortly after their family brought in a stock pile. We ran it all down the sink.

    I think this last year, I have been doing less of that, when I work. I have been putting them in sharps containers. You can’t do that with a lot of them, because at one dog of a facility I worked in, the sharps containers would get stolen and ripped apart in the parking lot. They were looking for old used duragesic patches, we thought.

    I am betting facility flushing accounts for more than any lay persons med disposals.

  4. When reading an article about chemical testing in waste water last month (Popular Science) I found it more interesting that as the tests are refined that down the road authorities could theoretically monitor your waste water to see if you ingest illicit substances out their sight.

  5. scoopy says:

    A new study finds that people are actually flushing TURDS down the toilet! News at 11:00.

  6. DevPts says:

    @Heresy Of Truth: Now that is a story worth investigating.

  7. DevPts says:

    @Heresy Of Truth: now that is a story worth investigating !

  8. synergy says:

    This is old news. I read about this somewhere years ago.

  9. chc08 says:

    To echo other posters, a little perspective:
    When they say trace, they mean like nanograms per liter.
    Based on some journal articles I came across (read those for the actual facts, not the AP processed version), levels maybe around 10 ng/L of antibiotics would be reasonable to assume in water from a treatment plant, so lets play with that number:
    At those concentrations, you would need to drink 100,000 L to be exposed to 1 mg of antibiotics. At an average rate of 2L/day, it would take 500,000 days to ingest that much, or more than 137 years. That’s just 1 mg.
    Note: an accepted dose of amoxicillin for kids with strep throat is 20 mg/kg, so a 20 kg kid would get 400 mg. A day. To drink that much you’d need to drink 40 million liters.
    Basically what has happened is environmental chemists have recently figured out the technology to detect these chemicals at such low concentrations. And guess what, they found them! While I think it’s important to know what’s in our water, I think this recent publicity of it may imply greater health risks than what there actually is. The environmental risks (estrogen to fish, etc.) may be of greater concern, which will in the end affect us adversely.

  10. backbroken says:

    @DevPts: I liked it better without the exclamation point.

  11. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    I just hope that the concentration of medications keeps increasing gradually until it pretty much amounts to free ibuprofen and naproxen just in time for my arthritic years. Nice!

  12. Another way to look at it:

    One cubic mile of water is 1.1 trillion gallons.

  13. kittenfoo says:

    Apparently there’s been some bad water in Iraq. KBR was allegedly supplying our troops with water that had not been adequately purified. A bunch of people got sick, too. Shame.

  14. coss3n says:

    “A single pill in an olympic sized pool of water.” Is that supposed to be a little? I would say it depends heavily on what the pill is.

  15. @coss3n: Therein is my problem with this story. The potency of the drugs is not mentioned, only that drugs are in the water, LOOK OUT!

    And in all of my chemistry experience in school and work, there’s quite a few inorganic chemicals that just get dumped down the sink. So, yeah there’s shit in our water, and it’s pretty much unavoidable. When the concentrations start creeping up towards having harmful effects then we can put something in the filtering/processing to get rid of it.

  16. deadlizard says:

    Now they’re going to have to put some fertility drugs in the water for the fish.

  17. bohemian says:

    I’m more worried about the fact that our drinking water can’t pass a health test for a pool. Or the tons of chlorine in it to combat all the farm runoff.

    But if you think about those minute drug amounts combined across types of drugs and over time it does become bothersome. What are the long term effects of constantly absorbing small amounts of a bunch of various drugs.

  18. UpsetPanda says:

    Isn’t there a pamplet or something on a .gov website that educates on proper medication disposal, and it says to not throw away meds in the bin because addicts have been known to dig through bins and dumpsters if they know one particular family has medications.

  19. foghat81 says:

    @eslaydog: LOL. kudos :)

  20. Trai_Dep says:

    @coss3n: No, a single pill in twenty two Olympic-sized pools of water. Drank, per day. That’s a LOT of kidney stress to catch a mild buzz.

    What I’m wondering is, how long would it take to urinate 22 Olympic pools of water, assuming I’m peeing in one, uninterrupted stream. Or, how long it would take to drink that much, assuming a normal chugging rate and if you could drink that much without exploding like a water balloon. Any one want to take some guesses? The multiplication’s easy but what’s the liter/minute of peeing/drinking?

  21. zarex42 says:

    This is pure sensationalist nonsense.

  22. Kavatar says:

    It’s something worth investigating the effects of (which is being done) but there was no need to turn it into a story. The only thing it might do is make people paranoid of drinking tap water when they don’t have to be.

  23. gp5548 says:

    A pretty clever move to add a touch of fear to drinking tap water again, since this so called ‘news’ has run nationally, it will be fun to watch the stock prices of the bottled water increment up a notch. Oh, it’s unsafe at any tap! Crap news! Crap science report, Great Fear Tactic though. Scares me and I’m fearless….. LOL

  24. strathmeyer says:

    @Trai_Dep: “So, while I think there should be an education effort to tell people to not dump their meds in the sink or toilet, I don’t think there’s much that reasonable people should do. The reporting on this seems a tad sensationalistic.”

    Oh my goodness! People don’t know how the meds are getting into the water!!!

    How come nobody’s mentioned the cocaine in Italy’s drinking supply?

  25. scoopy says:

    @Trai_Dep: “What I’m wondering is, how long would it take to urinate 22 Olympic pools of water, assuming I’m peeing in one, uninterrupted stream.”

    You need to work on your showmanship. This was hilarious. After this sentence, however, your point became diluted and your post fizzled. Great effort! B+

  26. Mr. Gunn says:

    This is the THIRD sensationalist article y’all have posted. Is that really necessary. I mean, really?

    If there’s some evidence that the amounts are actually even remotely close to being something that would have an effect, I’d like to see it, and I would think I would have at least in the second post on the exact same thing.

    Really, guys, what’s up with that? Is it just lack of communication? Did you each separately start working on a post without realizing the other had it already queued up?

  27. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @Trai_Dep: From what I can find, the average 18-45 year old male pees at an average rate of 21ml/sec. An olympic size swimming pool has about 2.5 million liters of water in it.

    If you run the math, it would take about 1377 days of continuious peeing to fill up an olympic swimming pool.

    Hooray science!

  28. m4ximusprim3 says:

    Also, the new site looks great. My only gripe is that I always clicked “the consumerist” at the top to go back to the home page and it’s no longer a link.

    Not a big deal, but change makes me whimper.

  29. mikelotus says:

    @DevPts: agree, i am sure the reasons that my penis is shrinking and i am now growing breasts has nothing to do with my drinking water coming out of the Potomac (where most of the male bass have eggs).

  30. mammalpants says:

    holy crap. arent you supposed to drink 8 swimming pools of water a day?

  31. Trai_Dep says:

    @eslaydog: err, I was actually curious. But yeah, looking back at it, it would have been funny. Err, with a cruel edit.

  32. Trai_Dep says:

    @m4ximusprim3: Hooray, scientists!! :D

  33. nardo218 says:

    @chc08: Things are given at low dosesm though. My daily meds are 5mg, 7.5 mg, and .125 mg.

  34. nonzenze says:

    “Heard on NPR’s Air Talk that the amounts are measurable in parts per trillion.”

    Remember children, 1 part per trillion = 1 molecule/8oz glass of water. This is pure bullshit and shame on Consumerist for running the story TWICE!

  35. nonzenze says:

    Remember children, 1 part per trillion = 1 molecule in an 8oz glass of water.

    Shame on ABC, the AP and Consumerist for not immediately debunking this half-baked scare-story.

  36. PKBandit says:

    We will all mutate into X-Men!

  37. medalian1 says:

    All of our drinking water goes through berkey light filters with an additional fluoride and arsenic filter. This is mainly because here in FL, I’m blessed with added fluoride in the water. Fluoride is a drug. Look on the back of your toothpaste, it says if you injest it, call the poison control hotline. Now what is added to my tap water? Fluoride! This is insane.

  38. backbroken says:

    Well, if you go by the homeopathic model, 1 part per trillion is enough to kill us all.