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Ball State University / Water / Energy & Environment / Environment / Health Care & Insurance

Drugs in our water

October 21, 2009

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?

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