Drugs In The Water No Big Deal, Says NYC Official

In regards to a headline grabbing AP investigation that found the drinking water of major cities contained trace amounts of an array of pharmacopoeia, the deputy commissioner of New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, “A person would have to drink one million glasses of water to get the dose of even one over-the-counter ibuprofen tablet or the caffeine in one cup of coffee…Even at eight glasses of water per day, this would take the average person over 300 years to consume.” So for those of you hoping to replace your medicine cabinet just by draining the Brita, sorry Charlie. However, there are no studies on the long-term effects to human of small exposure to a vast array of drugs, although, the Times notes, they have been shown to cause mutations in fish.

Council Considers Testing Water for Traces of Drugs [NYT]
PREVIOUSLY: AP: 41 Million Americans Drink Water Contaminated With Antibiotics, Anti-Convulsants, Mood Stabilizers, And Sex Hormones
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Recury says:

    Three words: Purity of Essence.

  2. Jozef says:

    In other news, air pollution in NYC after the 9/11 attacks was within safe levels, says EPA. Sorry, but I’m having a hard time believing anything the authorities say, at least not without a good third-party confirmation.

  3. bohemian says:

    It isn’t a full dose of Ibuprofen that is concerning. It is minute levels over time of things like antibiotics, cancer drugs and other more intense medications that could cause long term problems.

  4. Chols says:


  5. Dobernala says:

    So frogs and fish have adverse reactions but that is no cause for alarm!!!

  6. kimsama says:

    Hmm, I don’t know of any studies that have looked at long-term very low-dose exposure to a cocktail of drugs. I think that the issue here is the fact that the introduction of pharma into drinking water has untested effects, and you can’t merely write them off by saying “well, it’d take 300 years to equal taking an ibuprofen.” We don’t know that. Plus, there is such a thing as chemical interaction, and we don’t know what nasty compounds these things could form with each other or water purifying chemicals, even at ridiculously low levels. And there’s a lot more than drugs in our water supply — phytoestrogenic compounds are perhaps scarier, and don’t appear to have been addressed in the NYC DEP investigation.

    And finally, does anyone trust government agencies anymore now that they are uniformly understaffed, overburdened, and morally suspect in their ties to large industries (Monsanto, big pharma, etc)?

  7. thirdbase says:

    Your all so wimpy. Just drink the water and forget about it. It’s fine, I mean you do have an imune system right. Well let it do it’s job.

  8. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Okay, let us say that there is 1/876,400th of a dose of each drug. That would be 8 glasses a day, for 300 years to get one dose.

    But there is probably at least 300 different drugs in the water. That would mean it would only take one year to accumulate what would be some sort of scary variation of a multivitamin.

  9. freshyill says:

    @Dobernala: I think frogs and fish get exposed to a lot more water than you and I.

  10. Dobernala says:

    @freshyill: No, the concern is that we’re wrecking the environment while saying “we can’t really prove its bad for us”. That is what I take exception to.

    Still, I don’t feel comfortable about ingesting all these chemicals that are known to do those things to those animals.

  11. Angryrider says:

    Don’t worry, boil your water and everything will be all right.
    But wait, it’s inconvenient to boil water to drink…

  12. mduser says:

    @thirdbase: Unless your drinking water has antibiotics in it, which could screw with your immune system :-D

  13. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    @Angryrider: Boiling doesn’t get rid of pharmicudicals.

  14. freshyill says:

    @Dobernala: OK, well I’ll do my part. I promise to stop peeing anytime after I take any sort of medication.

    If you’re so uncomfortable with it, just stop drinking water, and you’ll be good to go. Can think of a better solution?

  15. Dobernala says:

    @freshyill: Yes. We used to live in a time where medicine didn’t exist. Civilizations flourished just fine. Perhaps we don’t have to be extreme, but we can certainly afford to do something that is easy to do.

    Preventative medicine – exercise, diet, and healthy habits keep people from getting sick. That is a good place to start. People who do those things tend to be much healthier and less dependent on cocktails of pills to live.

  16. Slick36 says:

    Too late for me, the female hormones in the water caused me to grow tits. What do I say to my wife now?

  17. Szin says:

    I think it’s safe to say that most NYers use water filters anyway!

  18. durkzilla says:

    I’m mostly concerned as to how these things got into the water system in the first place. Somewhere along the line, from reservoir to treatment plant to pumps and pipes, somebody or something is injecting these chemicals into the water system. I would hope that somebody would have better security over the system that feeds fresh water to our largest city….

  19. ChuckECheese says:

    @durkzilla: Perhaps people are urinating directly into the water supply!

  20. randombob says:

    Amen. I agree, that’s what it amounts to.

    That and the long-term health effects as well.

  21. CRSpartan01 says:

    Well, we will see what happens in fifteen years when everyone’s children are running around with three heads and have an unyielding taste for human flesh…

  22. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    @Dobernala: Yup, civilizations flourished just fine… provided “just fine” includes living to a ripe old age of 40, people dying of easily treatable diseases, malnutrition, no sewage or plumbing handling, and having no work except back-breaking disabling labor.

    Sounds like a paradise.

  23. chc08 says:

    @durkzilla: Do you urinate in a toilet? Do you ever take prescription or over the counter medicine? Well, multiply that by pretty much everybody and voila, drugs in the water (small amounts of drugs are not absorbed and are passed through your system). Plus, lots of people flush old meds down the drain. Don’t worry, there is no terrorist plot to contaminate our water supply with .0000000001 doses of ibuprofen.

    Our wastewater gets treated, put back into rivers and streams, and somewhere downstream gets treated and used for drinking water again. Current treatment technology is not designed to remove microscopic amounts of random chemicals, hence trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in water systems.

  24. Joe_Bagadonuts says:

    Looks like it’s time to stock up on those Kinoki Footpad DeToxifier things…[consumerist.com]

  25. camille_javal says:

    @thirdbase: It’s fine, I mean you do have an imune system right.

    Not so much after consuming all the antibiotics in our food and water supply.

    @Applekid: The average life spans we usually see tend to be inaccurate, because they are thrown off by a high infant mortality rate and the large number of women who died in childbirth. If you were a man, and lived to the age of 20, you had a decent chance of living to see 70.

    Mind you, I don’t want to go back there.

    And I’m on multiple prescription drugs and I pee a lot, so, sorry everybody.

  26. Prosumerist says:

    Maybe the reason civilizations flourished is BECAUSE the life expectancy was 40. Population control was automatic.

  27. mike says:

    @Dobernala: Fish and frogs don’t have the same immune system as humans. This is equilant to saying that caneries die in low-levels of carbon dioxide so it must be bad to people to.

    The news does a horrible job putting things into perspective. Toilet water is cleaner than water in your cup…only because toilets get cleaned with bleach.

    NY is saying what the news people didn’t tell you: even though there are traces of it in the water, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Hell, there is fecal matter in all water, but no one complains about that.

  28. zarex42 says:

    He is absolutely right. The amounts involved are *extremely* small, and pose *no risk* at all to anyone. This is 100% media hype and alarmism. Don’t fall for it.

  29. vastrightwing says:

    The news is not there to put things into perspective. It’s there to sensationalize, scare and cause you to buy stuff from their advertisers. As for chemicals in the water? If we can smoke cigarettes and live relatively longs lives; perhaps drinking a little chemical cocktail isn’t so bad.

    The bigger fear is Big Pharm starting to file lawsuits against the DPW for illegally distributing protected pharmaceuticals without a proper license. That’s my fear.

  30. Mr. Gunn says:

    chc08: OH NOES!! It’s homeopathic terrorism!

  31. trujunglist says:

    … there are no studies on the long-term effects to human of small exposure to a vast array of drugs, although, the Times notes, they have been shown to cause mutations in fish.

    I get to be Wolverine! Snikt, bub.

  32. bohemian says:

    Get a water distiller. Then again you get to see what was in your water when it is done distilling. There is some gross gunk that gets left over.

  33. Blueskylaw says:

    Even at eight glasses of water per day, this would take the average person over 300 years to consume.”
    @Ben Popken

    And yet there are people who are making more in one year than what I would make in tens of thousands of years.
    And what was the point of my comment? I dont know, it was just the first thing to pop into my head.

  34. Blueskylaw says:


  35. hi says:

    Reverse osmosis is probably the best way to purify water.

  36. Aph says:

    Buy some land, buy some land!
    F%*$ spinning rims!

  37. JustAGuy2 says:


    And we all lived much shorter lives. Personally, I like the fact that the scarlet fever I had as a child didn’t kill me, as it likely would have had I been more 50 or 100 years ago.

  38. vatica40 says:

    Eh, so what if stuff in the water has long term effects? Do we as a people really need to be living longer than we already are? Things are bad enough with all these people heading into the 70s and 80s. What happens when we start hitting the 110s regularly?

    if it has a negative effect, eh. Just pruning the tree of life.

  39. bluewyvern says:

    However, there are no studies on the long-term effects to human of small exposure to a vast array of drugs, although, the Times notes, they have been shown to cause mutations in fish.

    Yes. Sexy mutations.


  40. cynicalliberal says:

    Toxicologists have known this for going on 20 years, it’s really not a new thing. It really is unlikely to have an effect on people, the concentrations they were detecting were in the parts per trillion level. There is plenty of other stuff you should be more concerned over.

  41. GrandizerGo says:

    Where is Britta when you need them!?!?!

    Their newest commercial…

    Our filters remove 50% of the Prozac and 75% of the Viagra from your drinking water!

  42. JustAGuy2 says:


    Somehow, I don’t think “use our product and be anxious and flaccid” is a great marketing message.

  43. nidolke says:

    How Year Zero.

  44. tamoko says:

    Time to swear off water altogether… I’m drinking gin and breast milk from now on.