Monday, March 10, 2008

Ask your doctor if tap water is right for you

Prescription drugs found in drinking water across U.S.

A vast array of pharmaceuticals -- including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones -- have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

That's right, 41 million Americans. When was the last time you heard about a health crisis affecting 41 million Americans? Besides Shaken Economy Syndrome, that is.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose.

Hey, I've seen Erin Brockovich. That's my answer to that.

Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

Yeah...they also insist on raising our rates constantly. Perhaps for actual safety precautions this time?

The map of affected areas shows New Orleans made the list, but the entire state of Missouri is apparently in the clear. But that's more a case of Missouri being not Atlanta (acetaminophen, caffeine, cotinine) or San Francisco (estradiol, a sex hormone) than of Missouri doing something right. In any event, clofibric acid, estrone and naproxen are probably the weakest things in any given Big Easy drink...

Still, I've long said that the advent of bottled water has made the American public more and more apathetic toward the toxicity of their water supplies. And, speaking as someone who actually does drink tap water (and always has), I'd like to think that it still mattered to some people. Apparently not, as this chilling line illustrates:

The federal government doesn't require any testing and hasn't set safety limits for drugs in water.

Of course it doesn't! Maybe if someone flushed a stem-cell cocktail made in their bedroom?

I figured this was merely yet another example of Bush-era environmental eye-blindness. But AP offers a simpler theory:

How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

Gross. Anybody else out there get the queasy feeling that such lingering effluvia isn't limited to what medications people take?

In any case, I'm not too concerned. At the moment I have wisdom-tooth-related pain, and last night I had a headache on top of that. Hugging the tap didn't do jack squat for that, though it is worth noting that my menstrual cramps have completely vanished.

What are our fools in Washington drinking? Apparently, caffeine, ibuprofen, monensin, naproxen, carbamazepine and sulfamethoxazole. Oh, and power.


GumboFilé said...

As usual, the free market outperforms the state.

David in Grand Coteau

Ian McGibboney said...

I'm not sure what you mean by that...

GumboFilé said...

I buy my drinking water at the store, where the seller has to please me to get and keep my business. My public utility water provider has no such incentive. The situation described in your post is just the kind of thing that should be expected from monopoly-protected public utilities.

Ian McGibboney said...

I wasn't aware that the incentive to keep the public water supply clean was profit-based. Of all the things to not apply profit principles, I figured this would be the pinnacle. Guess not.

Though it is worth pointing out that for-profit corporate pollution and an out-of-control pharmaceutical industry both have major hands in this. So don't bruise your knees by falling too hard for the "free market."

rhonda said...

oh, c'mon ian. it's really no big deal. it's just millions upon millions of people unknowingly ingesting a dazzling array man-made substances. hell, with the cost of medicine and health care in general these days, this might be the best shot some of us get to have access to medication.

GumboFilé said...

So what? Do you think your vote is what protects your water supply?

Ian McGibboney said...

Well, as long as the government insists on pouring billions of dollars in a pointless war and in unprecedented surveillance, the very LEAST it can do is diligently operate its basic domestic utilities. I can't believe I'm even debating this. Wow.

GumboFilé said...

You have just illustrated very well what all governments and politicians are truly interested in. They are not interested in protecting us; they are only interested in perpetuating and enriching themselves. They will only serve us (or appear to do so) in so far as absolutely necessary to keep us compliant.

Hathor said...

Bottlers of bottled water have no better filtration. So I don't see where there has been an impetus to have clean water from the free market. If the bottlers had to start with the same water with effluent in it. They couldn't compete unless they could get some schmo to pay $15.00 for a 12 oz. bottle.