Traces Of Prescription Drugs Found In Drinking Water

It turns out you may be taking tiny doses of drugs every day and not even realize it.  A five month long Associated Press investigation shows pharmaceuticals have been found in water supplied to almost 41 million Americans.  That number could be more, but most cities do not treat their water for prescription drugs, causing concern.

From the water supply in California, to the water in Arlington, Texas, the AP's investigative team found traces of drugs in 24 metropolitan areas.  Medications like anti-depressants, anti-biotic's, heart medicine, you name it, but how about the water in East Texas.  Tyler's Utilities and Public Works Director Greg Morgan says right now it's hard to know.  The city does not test for prescription drugs, but thanks to new technology the city is able to test in parts per trillion.

"There are constituents in the water that we are beginning to find because of our ability to test," said Morgan.  "I am not aware, however, of any research that has determined any harmful effects to humans as a result of these personal care products, or pharmaceuticals." Here's how it works: The drugs enter the water supply after an unabsorbed medication passes through your body and is flushed down the toilet.  Sewage treatment plants don't remove the drugs, which then flow into rivers and lakes and then to drinking water plants.  It ends up flowing back out of our faucets and into our glasses.

How much medication is really being found in our water supply?  To give you an idea, the pharmaceuticals company said the amount of medication is equivalent to a single pill in an Olympic size pool.  Health officials say is nothing to panic over.

"It's nothing to get too worried about right now because we don't know the outcome," said ETMC's Clinical Pharmacy Manager Karel Cushing.  "I assume the concentrations are very low, or we would have more reactions we can attribute to our drinking water."  If you're still concerned about your drinking water, experts say you can buy a reverse osmosis water filtration system, which have been shown to remove drugs.  However, the filters can cost several hundred dollars.  Also, pharmacists tell me unless your medication specifically says it on the bottle, don't flush your expired, or unused medication down the toilet.  Instead, make it as hard to swallow as possible by adding water to your solid medications and flour, or kitty litter to liquid medications.  Then you just throw it away.

Molly Reuter, Reporting.