What’s in your Water?

Janet Kuypers

    I really am a 24-hour, drive-by media junkie. Translation: I usually turn to CNN or MSNBC for any news, or if there are commercials I’ll subject myself to the “fair and balanced” (ahem) FOX News. But this morning I turned through the news stations, and I think the TV was on FOX News (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,336286,00.html), when they started telling a story about how sometimes tiny amounts of prescription drugs are in tap water (based on a study dome with testing the tap water of 24 major cities).
    Now, the people on FOX News posed the question (as the AP article does): how do drugs get into tap water? FOX’s answer was this: that people take their old medications and drump them in the toilet to get rid of them. (The AP Article said it is because “People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue”: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/P/PHARMAWATER_I?SITE=NYNYP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT)
    Now, no studies have been done about the effects of miniscule amounts of drugs (from antibiotics or anticonvulsants to mood stabilizers and sex hormones), and there may be none, but FOX News questioned if people regularly drink tap water for 50 years, could a cumulative effect for the miniscule amounts of these drugs build up. And when people surveyed heard this, they said they would be more inclined to drink bottled water now — though there is no evidence that bottled water is not derived from tap water) which is some cases was even proven). But potential drug build-up isn’t what I thought when I heard this story. I listened to how water is used to make tap water, which people drink, and the first part of the process is that waste from everyone’s toilets get mixed into things that get cleaned and end up being used for tap water (which I drink from, instead of paying for bottled water). No one though to mention that all human waste (you know, urine and fecal matter) also gets absorbed into what eventually becomes tap water, which you cook with, clean with, and drink.
    I know, I know, blah blah blah, the cycle of life, reduce/reuse/recycle, but it’s just interesting to think of exactly where even your tap water comes from...



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