We are living in a pharmacological driven health care system. The vast majority of the population has consumed, at some point of time, prescription medication for any number of ailments. From painkillers to chemotherapy agents, we are taking drugs that, in most cases, are meant to help. However, a lot of what goes in must come out. All those prescription drugs end up being flushed down the toilet and released into our water sources, our lakes, rivers, etc.
The release of pharmaceuticals into the water system can have unwanted effects on our health, our environment, and our future in ways we do not yet understand. Earlier this week, CBC News published an article regarding the presence of prescription drugs that have been found in Canadian water sources. After reading this article, we couldn’t help but be a little concerned about our drinking water being contaminated by these drugs. Also, a recently released Canadian study (PDF) reported record-breaking levels of certain prescription medications found in river water in southwestern Ontario.
In 2013, a group of researchers found high levels of drugs in the Great Lakes and deemed their findings an “environmental concern.” Traces of acetaminophen, antibiotics, steroids, codeine, hormones, and dozens of other chemicals were all found in the tested water.
It has been over fourteen years since the effects of pharmaceuticals in our drinking water first came into light in the article, Drugged Drinking Water (PDF). Since then, scientists have been able to show evidence that drugs are creating “intersex” fish, with males developing eggs in their male organs, putting the species’ survival in jeopardy.
And while this is an obvious issue when it comes to sea life, there hasn’t been any solid proof about the potential damage to humans. While trace amounts for each individual chemical are low, there is concern about what sort of damage they can cause when mixed.
When it comes to our health, there are so many questions about the presence of these chemicals in our water and what, if any, effect it may have on our bodies. For instance, behavioral changes, hormonal changes and even reproductive toxicities can be damaging. All of these areas should be studied although the complexities of these studies would be challenging.
The World Health Organization admits there is a “knowledge gap” when it comes to “assessing the risks associated with long-term exposure to low concentrations” of drugs and “the combined effects of mixtures of pharmaceuticals.”
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