Drugs in our water

October 21, 2009
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Do you feel caffeinated, but don’t drink coffee? Or happy, but don’t take antidepressants?

An ongoing Ball State University study shows tributaries to the White River are contaminated with a host of pharmaceutical residues, which are likely making their way into the system through human waste. Ball State is tracking a footprint from north of Muncie to Martinsville, and has found traces of 25 drugs ranging from caffeine to lithium, an antidepressant.

The researchers are batting 1,000 so far, with 25 positive discoveries for the 25 drug tests they’ve run. They haven’t even looked for all of the more than 300 possible drugs.

Minimal levels of these drugs actually end up in drinking water, so the amounts aren’t high enough to be noticed by humans. (Nobody’s saying anything about the fish.)

However, lead researcher Melody Bernot says no one can speak authoritatively about the effect of constant exposure, even at low levels.

“There’s so much we don’t know,” says Bernot, a 1994 Lawrence Central High School grad. But, she adds, that we should be “very” concerned.

Does this worry you?

  • Bother?
    Yes, this absolutely bothers me and it should everyone else. This is one of many things our government should have regulated very stricly from the beginning of time. Why do they think it is O.K. to dump drugs into our drinking water?
  • Not "dumped"
    Read the article! It's not as if Lilly or Starbucks is literally dumping their product in the rivers or sewers. it's from sewer-plant discharges. Neither conventional sewage treatment nor drinking-water treatment will remove these contaminants from the river.

    This is a newly-recognized "problem" everywhere mainly because the technology now exists to detect the most minute traces of anything in water.

    The real public-health issue is figuring out if it's harmful.
  • Old New Repackaged
    This is old news. The US Geological Survey years ago documented these occurrences. It reminds me of the old Pogo Cartoon, "We have met the enemy, and it is us." Homo sapiens sapiens is one of the most successful if not the most successful large animal in the history of the planet. Again, it's old news - roughly 20 years - and to be expected when there are so many of us.
  • Troubling
    This is very troubling! As Americans continue to poison themselves with the diets they have and then need a drug to treat their ailment for the lifestyle they lead, it's a cycle that is now poisoning all our water supply! I choose not to eat garbage and not too buy into "there's a drug for that" motto and yet I can't escape it. Government agencies are such a waist of taxpayer $$, who are they truly protecting? There is no regulation on bottled water either, so you truly don't know if what you are drinking and is safe. We all know our food isn't.
  • Treasure our abundant natural resources
    "We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."
    Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949)

    People will eventually embrace this idea, it's just a matter of how much time we waste between now and then.
  • Science Hysterics
    This is borderline irresponsible reporting of scientific and medical news. (I truly do love journalism but find this is just par for the course when it comes non-scientific journalistic reporting on health science.)

    Back up these claims with a discussion of bioavailability of drugs, gastrointestinal effects on absorption, the hepatic first-pass effect, and rates of renal clearance for systemic molecules. Then discuss therapeutic levels vs. minimum toxic or lethal level. Folks, if you understood these basic concepts of physiology and pharmacology, you would sleep well at night after a glass of water.

    The researcher in question specializes in environmental science, and is not well qualified to make a claim regarding health concerns for trace levels of common drugs showing up on extremely sensitive assays. (I do suspect these quotes poorly reflect true context, and trust she is a reliable, respectable researcher in environmental science.) The real question should be on drugs that HAVE shown excessive toxicity in patients who take them for years (such as statins effects on hepatic function and muscle breakdown), then assess if their levels in drinking water meet the already studied and documented minimum toxic levels.
  • confused
    im confused
    in this artical to me i feel like your are making it like its not a big deal that thier are drugs in our water.....
    but it is a big deal isn't?
    i mean we should be drinking healthy purified water not WATER with DRUGS in it.
    thats not healthy.
    correct me if im wrong please.

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...