Monday, March 10, 2008

Sex Change, Anyone? Don't Drink the Water

In a new, long, disturbing article detailing the AP's investigation, pharmaceuticals are being detected in our drinking water--in large enough amounts to affect embryonic cells, encourage cancer cell growth, et cetera. That's only the tip of the iceberg since we know so very little. We don't absorb everything we take in, neither do our farm animals and pets, and there's no current treatment set up to filter the drugs. So, if you feel more mello, have new breasts growing, or seem a bit more crazy--and you like it--drink more water. (also see a partial list of major cities and what's in the water via that weblink.)

"Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.
One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.

Another issue: There's evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

Human waste isn't the only source of contamination. Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals.

Water sampled downstream of a Nebraska feedlot had steroid levels four times as high as the water taken upstream. Male fathead minnows living in that downstream area had low testosterone levels and small heads.

Other veterinary drugs also play a role. Pets are now treated for arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and even obesity — sometimes with the same drugs as humans....

Also, pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females. Pharmaceuticals also are affecting sentinel species at the foundation of the pyramid of life — such as earth worms in the wild and zooplankton in the laboratory, studies show.

Some scientists stress that the research is extremely limited, and there are too many unknowns. They say, though, that the documented health problems in wildlife are disconcerting.

"It brings a question to people's minds that if the fish were affected ... might there be a potential problem for humans?" EPA research biologist Vickie Wilson told the AP. "It could be that the fish are just exquisitely sensitive because of their physiology or something. We haven't gotten far enough along...."

[exquisitely sensitive? WTF! Canary in the coal mine people, hel-frickin'-lo!!!]

There's growing concern in the scientific community, meanwhile, that certain drugs — or combinations of drugs — may harm humans over decades because water, unlike most specific foods, is consumed in sizable amounts every day.

Our bodies may shrug off a relatively big one-time dose, yet suffer from a smaller amount delivered continuously over a half century, perhaps subtly stirring allergies or nerve damage. Pregnant women, the elderly and the very ill might be more sensitive.

Many concerns about chronic low-level exposure focus on certain drug classes: chemotherapy that can act as a powerful poison; hormones that can hamper reproduction or development; medicines for depression and epilepsy that can damage the brain or change behavior; antibiotics that can allow human germs to mutate into more dangerous forms; pain relievers and blood-pressure diuretics....

And while drugs are tested to be safe for humans, the timeframe is usually over a matter of months, not a lifetime. Pharmaceuticals also can produce side effects and interact with other drugs at normal medical doses. That's why — aside from therapeutic doses of fluoride injected into potable water supplies — pharmaceuticals are prescribed to people who need them, not delivered to everyone in their drinking water."


Ki said...

I held off buying a reverse osmosis water treatment unit but it may be a good idea to buy one now. I don't think those charcoal filters will remove the pharmaceuticals.

Benjamin Vogt said...

That's gotta be an expensive purchase, though. I don't know much about them, other than what I've heard. It's just plain scary. Maybe instead of helping people buy new HDTV converters, the gov't could help people buy proper water filtration units?

WiseAcre said...

It's not just water and drugs. Pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables don't do kids any good either.

I'm not about to extroll the virtues of smoking - there are none but smoking is a red herring in many ways. Asthma and other problems are blamed on smokers but what is never mentioned is my generation grew up in smoked filled rooms and we did not develop the problems kids are now facing.

All these low lever exposures in food, air and water are not doing us any good. The 'evidence' that they're hurting the young may not be solid but I don't need to be smacked up side the head to take a hint.

Rosemarie said...

I've heard about this too and right when I got over my phobia drinking tap water (I grew up on well water). I don't think my britta pitcher can take out the lipitor in my water can it?

Benjamin Vogt said...

I don't think my fridge filter will do much, either. But, if one pharmaceutical spokesperson says the water is ok, who am I to argue? They ARE the ones who made the stuff in our water. I'm sending a check to them.