October 20, 2016
From Our 2008 Archives
font size

Drugs in Our Drinking Water: A Growing Concern

There are growing concerns that the pace of today's society due to industrialization and modernization is compromising the integrity of nature. While many people are aware of topics such as global warming, "going green," and recycling, public awareness is lacking on the impact medications have on the environment.

News reports have increasingly shown a presence of prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs in our water supply. The quantities of these drugs have been reported as generally minuscule amounts that are far below the levels of a medical dose.

How can this be? A few ways this could happen are improper disposal techniques of medications by consumers in their homes; inadequate disposal methods of animal feed from animal farms that may contain antibiotics / steroids; and human and livestock waste containing unabsorbed drugs.

As of right now, there are too many unknowns involving what the current and long-term health effects may be from a drug-contaminated water supply. Independent health officials, however, state that due to the small quantities found in the water supply, the likelihood of risk is relatively low.

Another factor to consider involves water providers. All cities and states have water treatment plants that are regulated by law to make sure water is safe for consumption. Before water is pumped out, it is tested for a variety of impurities. Currently, the federal government does not require that water providers test for pharmaceutical elements in water; nor has there been an official determination of safe limits for drugs in the water supply. This problem of prescriptions in the water supply is not specific to the United States alone, as there are quite a number of countries facing the same issue.

In the near future, it is hoped that water plants will be regulated by law to test for pharmaceuticals in water supplies, and more scientific research will be conducted to determine whether long-term effects occur. In the meantime, as a society we can do our part by abstaining from inappropriate drug disposal methods such as flushing medications down the toilet, using the garbage disposal system, or putting medications down the sink since these can contaminate the water supply. Instead, inquire about local drug disposal programs or check with your pharmacy and physician's office to see if they have disposal services.

Women's Health

Find out what women really need.

Use Pill Finder Find it Now See Interactions

Pill Identifier on RxList

  • quick, easy,
    pill identification

Find a Local Pharmacy

  • including 24 hour, pharmacies

Interaction Checker

  • Check potential drug interactions
Search the Medical Dictionary for Health Definitions & Medical Abbreviations