- Out of 28 cities where the drinking water was tested, only 3 found no chemicals.
- Test protocols varied. Some tested for one chemical, some for more than one chemical.
- Some water tests were negative but independent studies refute this.
- See the page for a list of cities and what each one found.
From 1999 to 2002, the United States Geological Survey studied surface and groundwater samples from around the country to determine whether pharmaceutical chemicals were present. They found at least one compound in 80% of streams and 93% of groundwater the most commonly found compounds were steroids, over-the-counter medications, and insect repellents.American River reports that in the Potomac River, male bass are producing eggs.
Some argue that these chemicals are found in our drinking water in such tiny amounts (parts per trillion or ppt) that they cannot possibly cause human harm. However, insulin, estrogen (and EDCs that act like estrogen), and other hormones are exceptionally potent chemicals that operate at concentrations of ppt, and fetuses are sensitive to chemicals in the parts per quadrillion range.
From a 2010 report from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reports these chemicals in Minnesota streams:
- Methylparabens were found in 32 percent of samples. MP is an anti-fungal used in cosmetics. (A study on methylparabens on fruit flies.)
- Propylparabens were found in 21 percent of samples.
- Carbamazepine (an ADD drug) was found in 6 percent of samples at up to 34ng/L.
- Venlafaxine (an SSRI used to treat depression) was found in 9.4% of samples.
- Citalopram (an SSRI) found in 4%, sertraline in 2.7%, bupropion in 2% of samples. Fluxetine was found in one sample.
Biofilm, also called slime, indicates a healthy stream. Slippery rocks illustrate a good biofilm, and healthy water. Rocks next to a stream that have little or no slime are a big red flag. From the Cary Institute, diphenhydramine (Benedryl) reduce photosynthesis by 99% in biofilm.
A study in 2013 from Environmental Science and Technology shows that triclosan (TCS), a broad-spectrum bacteriocide in many anti-bacterial soaps, creates super bacteria harmful to human health. (Super bacteria can only be treated with a limited number of antibacterials, and in some cases, there are no medicines to treat it at all.) It ends up in streams and as suburbs grow up around the area, TCS contamination increases in stream sediments.
A study in 2014 shows that TCS (triclosan) also affects anaerobic bacteria in digesters.
In April 2013, Wired magazine reports that pharmaceuticals escape into streams from treated sewage from treatment plants that are not equipped to remove drugs from water. Even occurring at 3 parts per trillion, these chemicals have a bad effect on life in the water.
A study in 2010 from the journal Pediatrics, found seven year old girls are now developing breasts.
The baseline cohort included 1239 girls. The proportion of girls who had attained breast stage 2 varied by age, race/ethnicity, BMI percentile, and site. At 7 years, 10.4% of white, 23.4% of black non-Hispanic, and 14.9% of Hispanic girls had attained breast stage ≥2; at 8 years, 18.3%, 42.9%, and 30.9%, respectively, had attained breast stage ≥2.
Another study from 1997 also shows early development, likely from EDCs which act like estrogen in the body. Overweight girls are more likely to have early breast development, and EDCs are linked to being overweight also.
A July 2010 study from Environ Health Perspect tested urine of people, and found correlation to phytoestrogens (chemicals found in plants, like soy, that act like hormones), phthalates, and phenols (like Bisphenol A, BPA).
There is a lot of correlation between EDC, early development in girls, and being overweight. But the scientific community seems inconsistent when admitting correlation is a problem or not. It seems best to avoid EDCs as much as possible.
- American Rivers.org. PDF about pharmaceuticals in rivers.
- Chemistry Factors in Water Treatment and Distribution Relating to Lead Release. Presentation to Dept of Health and Human Services, Flint, Mi. Feb 10, 2016.
- Pharmaceuticals in streams. ENN, April 2013.
- EPA research on water issues.
- EPA search for water research papers.
- EPA's Healthy Watersheds Program. They have a Watershed Health Index. I couldn't find any watersheds with the WHI though.
- Human pharmaceuticals in US surface waters: A human health risk assessment. Aug 2005.
- Organic Consumer's Association reports on drugs in processed drinking water.
- PEER.org. More research papers. Pharma pollution of waters. PEER news releases.