The Impact of Pharmaceutical Drugs in Our Drinking Water - Water For Life USA (2023)

The Impact of Pharmaceutical Drugs in Our Drinking Water - Water For Life USA (1)

Pharmaceutical drugs in our tap water are a real and growing concern. According to Associate Press, at least 41 million Americans are exposed to these drugs every single day! These pharmaceutical drugs include antibiotics, anticonvulsants, mood stabilizers, and sex hormones. To be fair, the concentrations of these drugs are small. They’re measured in parts per billion or trillion which is far below a medical dose. But the long-term effects of being exposed to pharmaceutical drugs in our tap water are not fully understood and should be a concern to everyone reading this.

Pharmaceutical Drugs are in Our Tap Water All Across the US

Pharmaceutical drugs have been found in tap water in 24 major metropolitan areas ranging from California all the way to New Jersey. They’ve been found in Detroit, Lewisville, Kentucky and most major cities. So you might be asking yourself, how do these drugs get into my water? The answer is they get there from the toilet. People flush their leftover drugs down the toilet. It also goes down the toilet when they urinate. This wastewater is treated before it’s discharged into our reservoirs, rivers, and lakes. However, these treatments do not remove all of the drugs.

Here are some of the areas of biggest concern:

* In Philadelphia, they found 56 different pharmaceutical drugs or their by-products in people’s drinking water. These drugs included medicines for pain, infections, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness, and heart problems. In the cities surrounding watersheds, they found 63 drugs.

* Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications are also detected in the drinking water in Southern California. This affects 18.5 million people

* In Northern New Jersey, they found metabolized angina medicine and the mood-stabilizing drug carbamazepine in the water.

* In San Francisco, they found an unusually high level of sex hormones.

* In Washington, DC, they found six different pharmaceutical drugs.

* In Tucson, Arizona, they found antibiotics and two other drugs.

Of the 28 major metropolitan areas the AP tested, only Albuquerque, Austin, Texas, and Virginia Beach were negative!

Not Just a City Problem

If you think that this is only a city problem, you’re wrong. The Stroud Research Center in Avondale, Pennsylvania, measured water samples from New York City’s upstate watershed and found that more drugs were found in suburban sites than even in the city. One theory is that these drugs are escaping from failed septic tanks.

Even people who drink bottled water don’t always avoid exposure. Water bottling companies, most of which bottle tap water, do not typically treat or test for pharmaceuticals in that water. So it ends up in the bottle.

The AP and the Stroud Institute aren’t the only major organizations to study drugs in our drinking water. For example, the United States Geological Survey found low levels of hormones, including estrogen and testosterone, in over 80% of the water samples collected from 139 streams across 30 states in the US!

They also collected water samples from 25 rivers across the US and found detectable levels of opioids.

Finally, they tested water samples from 48 sites across the US and found detectable levels of antibiotics and over half of the samples tested.

The bottom line is most of the water in the US has detectable levels of pharmaceutical drugs. Those levels are low and don’t pose an immediate health risk. But long-term exposure to these drugs could be a serious risk to your health.

Long-Term Health Effects of Pharmaceutical Drug Exposure

The sex hormones found in San Francisco tap water are of particular concern. The USGS, WHO, and the EPA all researched the health effects of inadvertent sex hormone exposure, and this is what they found.

Sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, can act as endocrine disruptors that interfere with our endocrine system’s normal functioning. Our endocrine system regulates hormone production and signaling in our body. The big problem with sex hormones being in our water is that it qualifies as prolonged exposure. This means that our hormonal balance could get disrupted and lead to problems with our reproductive Health, development, and other processes in our body.

In women, estrogen in the water can disrupt the menstrual cycle of women who drink it. It can also lead to fertility issues and hormonal imbalances. In men, getting exposed to estrogen my interfere with their sperm production and quality.

Believe it or not, some studies have suggested a potential link between long-term exposure to sex hormones and an increased risk for certain cancers. Specifically, they found that exposure to estrogen can elevate the risk of developing breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers. There is limited research in this area, but it does make sense.

Another scary consequence of sex hormones in our drinking water is that it could affect the development of our unborn babies. And once a child is born, it may affect their growth, sexual development, and their overall health. Research has linked endocrine disrupters to damage to reproductive organs and secondary sexual characteristics. They even impact the development of our brain, and that certainly can impact our behavior.

Finally, besides being a threat to us, sex hormones and drinking water can severely impact our environment. Those hormones can affect fish and other aquatic organisms leading to reproductive abnormalities and population and balances, destroying an entire ecosystem.

The bottom line is sex hormones in our water are very bad, and San Francisco is not alone. New York City is also right up there, and probably other cities have them. They just haven’t been conclusively tested yet.

Anticonvulsants Can Create Thyroid Problems

The anti-convulsants in drinking water are also a serious concern. Anticonvulsants are primarily prescribed to people with epilepsy and other seizure disorders to control their seizures. People drinking anti-convulsants in their water might have their neurological functions impacted. It could change their brain activity and cognitive function and increase the risk of neurological disorders.

Some anti-convulsants can impact our metabolic and hormonal levels too. This could lead to weight gain or loss, changes in thyroid function, and other problems.

Another massive problem with anti-convulsants is that they tend to interact with other drugs. So if you are already taking prescribed medications, drinking water with anti-convulsants could impact those medications.

Anticonvulsants also harm our environment. Of course, fish and other aquatic organisms would be severely harmed by having these in their water.

Mood stabilizers Can Create Emotional Disorders

The last major pharmaceutical drug found in our drinking water that we want to discuss is mood stabilizers. They are prescribed to individuals who have mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. The general population definitely doesn’t want to be exposed to these. If they are, specific mood stabilizers like lithium can impact our hormones. This could lead to weight gain and loss, impact our thyroid, and cause other problems.

Mood stabilizers could also impact the mood and behavior of the general population. We could see an impact on emotional disorders and how we think, and negatively impact our mental well-being.

Mood stabilizers also interact with other drugs, so there could be unintended consequences from drinking mood stabilizers and taking prescribed medications. And just like other drugs, mood stabilizers can have a devastating impact on our environment.

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