Forget Astra Zeneca, have you heard about the new plan to help people afford their medications? Thanks to them I’m now on prozac, premarin, lopid, equanil, midol extended relief, bactrim, and proloprim. It’s great, really, after you get over the nausea/headaches/excessive bloating/ joint pain and risk of death stuff. Just minor inconveniences. The best part? I doesn’t even have a copay. They give it away in the water now!!!
Just kidding. Welcome to day two of water week. If you missed yesterday my mission is to cover three major areas of concern regarding tap water quality and then to share the best solutions I know of. Yesterday we talked about fluoride, today is pharmaceuticals. Tomorrow I’ll cover the rest of the scary stuff and then we’ll move on to solutions, promise!
In a study conducted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, researchers found that drinking water is often laced with a wide variety of pharmaceuticals and hormonally active chemicals.
The 11 most frequently detected compounds were:
- Atenolol, a beta-blocker used to treat cardiovascular disease
- Atrazine, an organic herbicide banned in the European Union which has been implicated in the decline of fish stocks and in changes in animal behavior
- Carbamazepine, a mood-stabilizing drug used to treat bipolar disorder
- Estrone, an estrogen hormone secreted by the ovaries and blamed for causing gender changes in fish
- Gemfibrozil, an anti-cholesterol drug
- Meprobamate, a tranquilizer used in psychiatric treatment
- Naproxen, a painkiller and anti-inflammatory linked to increases in asthma incidence
- Phenytoin, an anticonvulsant used to treat epilepsy
- Sulfamethoxazole, an antibiotic
- TCEP, a reducing agent used in molecular biology
- Trimethoprim, another antibiotic
The study then adds . . .
That the concentrations found were too small to cause any harm to us or the environment. If that’s true, then what’s the deal with transexual fish scaring biological research associates? And what about those poor hermaphroditic frogs found near human waterways? Yes, I’m sure our sons will be just fine with these, ahem, “acceptable levels” of estrogen being pumped into their developing bodies everyday.
Yeah right. Pharmaceuticals are reshaping our environment and our bodies in unintended ways.
[Freshwater] habitats around the world have been found contaminated with the synthetic estrogen used in contraceptive pills, ethynylestradiol. While concentrations are generally found around .5 nanograms per liter, concentrations as high as several hundred nanograms per liter have been reported, as well. A large body of evidence has connected this contamination with excess feminization in fish.
In one study, U.S. and Canadian government scientists purposely contaminated an experimental lake in Ontario with around 5 nanograms per liter of ethynyl estradiol, and studied the effects on the lake’s fathead minnow population, a common species that fish like lake trout and northern pike feed on. Minnows normally become sexually mature at two years of age and enjoy a single mating season before perishing.
Exposed to ethynyl estradiol, the male minnows’ testicular development was arrested and they started making early-stage eggs instead. That year’s mating season was disastrous. Within two years, the minnow population crashed.
Yale Environment 360 Online Magazine (emphasis mine)
These chemicals are known to bioaccumulate and be passed from mama to baby, increasing each generations chances of a particular penile defect in newborn boys, infertility and even cancer. Although ecotoxicologists are beginning to draw attention to this issue, it will most likely be a long time before public policy demands that we screen for and remove these compounds. In the meantime, little research has been done on how effective current filtration systems are at removing them. However, I did run across ONE study that indicated a solution, which I’ll be sharing on Thursday. Hang in there, just one more to go!
Next Post in this Series: Chlorine & Cancer