How Did Drugs Get in the Water?
The pathway into our drinking water is through our own treatment systems. First, there are no standards for the vast majority of these chemicals. The result of this regulatory inaction is that pharmaceutical drinking water contamination is largely legal:
- A review of industrial wastewater records found tons of drugs enter the water system from the drains of drug companies and chemical manufacturers;
- Another, larger pathway is us. Many of the components of these drugs and supplements are not completely metabolized by the human body. The un-metabolized portions of these compounds are excreted when people defecate or urinate and we flush them down the toilet into our water system. For example, when amoxicillin, a common antibiotic, is ingested, 60% of the drug comes out unchanged in the urine; and
- Disposal of unused drugs, sometimes by flushing down the toilet. Even disposal in landfills does not prevent these chemicals from leeching into water supplies.