We assume that our tap water is relatively safe, despite the flouride it contains and the fact that chemicals are used to treat it. Bottled water is assumed healthier and cleaner, although the reality of bottled water (see The Rising Firefly volume 49) is often much less pure than tap water and is not regulated adequately. When we hear news of problems with our water supply, we always receive it like an electrical shock – water is essential for life! A recent report by the National Water Research Institute for Health and Environment Canada tells us that tap water, while heavily regulated, often contains traces of drugs – namely, prozac, painkillers, and cholesterol pharmaceuticals.
Nine different drugs were found in water samples near 20 different water treatment plants across Ontario, Canada. The drugs were “acidic pharmaceuticals”, which include ibuprofin and neproxin (painkillers), gemfibrozil (cholesterol-lowering medicine), and prozac (anti-depressant). The area with the highest levels of contamination were from locations near sewage treatment plants, suggesting that the chemicals are getting into our water supply from our own bodily wastes! Areas that tested the lowest were plants whose sourcing water was from groundwater or lakes.
The long-term effects of the consumption of these drugs through tap water is yet unknown. The amounts are well below prescription doses, but even small amounts of chemicals can have devestating effects. Tiny residues of hormones disrupt the reproductive abilities of fish and reptiles. Antibiotic residues have been targeted as a possible cause of resistance to them. Many medications will hurt a fetus, even in miniscule amounts. The US Geological Survey and the Department of Environmental Protection revealed that 42-79% of male smallmouth bass from the Potomac River harbor nicotine-related chemicals and traces of caffeine. They have also started to produce eggs!
This study was the first done by the Canadian government and was the result of recommendations by water quality experts in Canada. Government chemists in that country have been worried about the effects of drugs in the water supply. Meanwhile, US and European studies were revealing that antibiotics, veterinary drugs, fragrances, and drugs for epilepsy, depression, and anti-inflammatory were found in treated tap water in their respective areas of the world. The Canadian government is not testing for the full range of drugs that are probably found in their water supply.
As the baby boomers age, many fear that this problem will worsen. As people age, they tend to rely more on medicines, so the amount that will be exposed to the environment and water supply will increase in just a few years.
The long-term effects of these chemicals in our water are unknown. Clean water is essential for life, and governments know that our water is contaminated. Whatever action they will take will reveal their true agenda and concerns. Scientists in Europe and Japan have already started to tackle this issue for their citizens and are working on ways to clean water using hypersensitive filtration materials.