Drugged waterways

At least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals have been released—legally—into waterways that often are sources of drinking water over the past 20 years. That’s according to an Associated Press investigation the news group published in mid-April.

That number is likely much higher, said the report, given that no one really tracks pharmaceutical releases. However, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration monitor them in a slight capacity as, respectively, industrial chemicals and active pharmaceutical ingredients. Their data became the basis for the AP report, which calls the figure a “massive undercount.”

The biggest contributors to the contamination? Us. Consumers take the drugs, then excrete whatever isn’t absorbed.

The report noted that even heavily diluted concentrations of pharmaceuticals have been proven by researchers to be harmful to fish, frogs and other aquatic species.

“Utilities say the water is safe,” the AP article stated. “Scientists, doctors and the EPA say there are no confirmed human risks associated with consuming minute concentrations of drugs. But those experts also agree that dangers cannot be ruled out, especially given the emerging research.”