Pharmaceutical Drugs in Drinking Water: Where They Come from and How to Remove Them

5748419806_789a66c65f_mWhen you start to look into all of the types of contaminants that can show up in the average glass of tap water, you’ll be surprised at what you find. Sure, there are contaminants you’d expect to find like chlorine and hardness minerals, but you’ll also find some strange things like pharmaceutical drugs. The effects of having these drugs in our drinking water are largely unknown, which is sometimes even more worrisome than having a good understanding of a contaminant’s health effects. Today we’re going to talk about how pharmaceutical drugs get into drinking water, the possible health effects they can cause and how you can remove them from the water in your New Hampshire home!

How do pharmaceutical drugs end up in drinking water?

There are two ways that pharmaceutical drugs end up in drinking water. The first is when people flush old or excess drugs down the toilet, which happens much more often than you might think. That’s why many cities have places where you can take your pharmaceutical drugs to be disposed of properly. The second source is from urine in wastewater, because small traces of prescription drugs tend to show up in the urine of people who take them.

In either case, the problem is that traces of the drugs make it past wastewater treatment plants and end up in the same bodies of water from which many cities draw their municipal water.

How common are pharmaceutical drugs in drinking water?

A recent study took samples from 50 large wastewater treatment plants from around the country and tested them for 56 different drugs, including oxycodone, high blood pressure medications and over-the-counter medications like Tylenol and ibuprofen. The study found that more than half of the samples tested positive for traces of at least 25 of the drugs that they tested for. These numbers are not so surprising when you consider the fact that nearly 70 percent of Americans take some forms of prescription drugs.

What are the possible health effects of pharmaceutical drugs in water?

As we mentioned above, the health effects of drinking water that contains traces of pharmaceutical drugs are not well known. This doesn’t mean that there are no health effects, but rather that the effects of long-term exposure to small traces of pharmaceutical drugs are not yet understood. There have been a number of water contaminants in the past that were not originally considered harmful but were later deemed so after extensive research.

What we do know is that these drugs seem to be affecting the aquatic life in the source water where they show up. For example, water that contains tiny amounts of estrogen has caused certain male fish to develop eggs. We also know that hormones affect people at very low doses, and many pharmaceutical drugs contain hormones.

One final concern that health officials have about pharmaceutical drugs in drinking water is that the combination of many different types of drugs could potentially be dangerous because each drug can interact with another one in different ways.

How can you remove pharmaceutical drugs from your drinking water?

If you’re concerned about the possible health effects of having pharmaceutical drugs in your home’s drinking water, you can remove them by installing a water filtration system in your home. A reverse osmosis system is an excellent choice for removing traces of these drugs, because the chemicals from pharmaceutical drugs are very tiny and RO filters are especially good at removing contaminants of their size.

If you have any questions about pharmaceutical drugs in drinking water, or if you’d like a water system serviced or installed in your home, contact McBride’s Water Advantage, your water softener and water filtration system dealer in Epsom, NH. We provide service all over New Hampshire, including towns like Gilford, Laconia and Nottingham, NH.

photo credit: jamiesrabbits via photopin (license)

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