"Prescription drugs found in our drinking water" screamed the headlines back in March 2008. My first reaction on reading this was to wonder whether this was really true or just a scare story to sell the newspapers. And, if there really were drugs in the drinking water, how had this occurred and, more importantly, how had this been allowed to happen? Most important of all, is my tap water safe to drink?
Is it true?
An investigation carried out by Associated Press revealed the discovery of prescription drugs in drinking water supplied by 24 metropolitan areas affecting 41 million Americans. The pharmaceuticals included antibiotics, hormones and mood stabilizers among others.
How has this occurred?
For many years the main method of disposal of unused medications has been to flush them down the toilet and so straight to the water treatment plants. Even when the drugs are taken by patients there will always be a residue that will pass through the body and end up in the waste water system.
How has this been allowed to happen?
The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1973 sets the standards for the public water treatment facilities in the country. They are required to test for 90 different pollutants and report the results. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for supervising these arrangements, but there are doubts as to how strictly these regulations are observed.
Is my tap water safe to drink?
The utility companies assure us that the water is perfectly safe and, although they agree that there are minute amounts of prescription drugs in drinking water, these are so small as to pose no risk to human health. Other independent scientists are not so sure. While they are not prepared at this stage to suggest that people should stop drinking tap water, they do have concerns particularly about synthetic hormones and are calling for the EPA to carry out further research.
What about pregnant women, young children and the elderly?
Are people in this group more likely to be affected by drugs in the drinking water? Although there is no evidence that this group have been affected, it is quite reasonable to assume that young bodies that are not fully developed as well as the elderly with their weakened constitutions are likely to be at greater risk.
Should I drink bottled water instead?
Since a large proportion of bottled water comes from the municipal supply without further treatment you will end up paying for water that is of no better quality than comes from your faucet.
What about water filters?
A water purifier fitted in your home can be the answer, but there are different types of filter and some are more effective than others. Technical terms like carbon filter and reverse osmosis make the position sound rather complicated so you need make some careful research before making a purchase.
So are those headlines just scaremongering? Well it's up to you to decide whether the tiny amounts of prescription drugs in drinking water are nothing to worry about or if you want to pursue the question of a home water filter.
Hugh Harris-Evans is a writer and researcher on water purification issues. Visit his site now at http://www.brightwaterfilter.com to get the facts on how to choose the best water purification system.