Drugs in the Water

Should We Be Concerned About Drugs in the Water Supply?
You should be concerned about this controversial issue, and here’s why:

On the topic of drugs in the water, an AP study has reported that a vast array of pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones, have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.

In the United States, the problem isn’t confined to surface waters. Drugs also permeate deep underground aquifers which provide 40 percent of the country’s water supply. Human drugs are the not the only source, they also come from cattle and pet drugs.

At this point science tells us that we don’t yet know the impact of ingestion of low levels of drugs. And the concentrations are tiny (at least so far). One concern is that the AP study has shown that water providers rarely disclose results of pharmaceutical screenings. Of those areas tested, fewer than half of the large metropolitan, and almost no smaller providers, even test the water for drugs. A California provider suggested that the impacts aren’t known yet, and the information might unduly cause alarm. Well, we think it might just cause appropriate alarm! The view that Americans can’t handle information is offensive, and we’ve heard it too many times before. (Thanks to AP for doing this study.)

What are the Risks?
The EPA has said they “recognize it is a growing concern [about drugs in the water] and we’re taking it very seriously.” Recent studies which have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.

Drugs in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females. Pharmaceuticals also are affecting what are called sentinel species at the foundation of the pyramid of life – such as earthworms in the wild and zooplankton in the laboratory.

Some scientists stress that the research is extremely limited, and there are too many unknowns. They also express, however, that the documented health problems in wildlife are disconcerting.

Laboratory research has found that small amounts of medication have affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. The cancer cells proliferated too quickly; the kidney cells grew too slowly; and the blood cells showed biological activity associated with inflammation.

Will filters filter pharmaceuticals?
We know that people don’t like to hear it, but test results can be misleading. Tests are naturally enough done with new filters and new filter media. The tests normally often don’t indicate how long that level of filtration will last when the filters are put to work over time.

But the answer is yes.  The wide-spectrum filters we sell include FOAM ADVANTAGE kdf, which very effectively filters chemically-based contaminants (including drugs), and granulated coconut carbon, which is particularly effective at filtering organic contaminants, which includes hormones.  All the media in these filters is the best quality available.  That doesn’t mean you  can rely on 100% removal.  It does mean good protection for you.

If you change filter cartridges at the frequency recommended, you will continue to get optimal filtration for the life of your filters.

There are drugs in the water

On the topic of drugs in the water, a reader sent in this response:
“My beloved mother passed away in 2004 after a bout with cancer. During her sickness, she was taking various high-priced prescription drugs, including potent pain killers.

After she passed away, one of the Gov’t employees flushed all of the unused medicines down the toilet. I was told that this was standard operating practice to prevent misuse of these medicines. I have since learned that this is indeed standard practice because there is no procedure in place to redistribute or return these drugs to their origin.”


Friends of Water is a family-owned and family-run business founded in January 2006. We work to save water, filter water and celebrate water.

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