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Tap Water Tainted With Pharmaceutical Drugs

People toss many things down the toilet, and one popular item to flush is unused pharmaceutical drugs. It seems a logical way to get rid of them, but traces of many drugs are showing up in drinking water nationwide. In 2006 and 2007, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, based in Las Vegas, screened 19 water utilities around the US for 51 different compounds. They found traces of pharmaceutical drugs, with the top 11 ranging from the mood-stabilizing drug carbamazepine, used to treat bipolar disorder, to a couple types of antibiotics, trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole, which is used to treat infections like tonsillitis caused by streptococcus bacteria. Naproxen, an anti-inflammatory used in the over-the-counter painkiller Aleve, was also among the top 11.

The concentration of these drugs in drinking water is a million times lower than medical doses, and is considered to pose no threat to human health. Although pathogen levels found in US drinking water are regulated, pharmaceuticals are not. While the levels of these drugs in our water may not be alarming, their presence serves to remind us about the chemicals that surround us and how we affect our environment.

To see how you should dispose of unused pharmaceuticals, just


The majority of unused pharmaceuticals should be thrown away in the garbage. Better yet, they should be taken to a pharmaceutical take-back program or household hazardous waste collection program. Do read the literature that accompanies the drug, for it is recommended to flush a few highly addictive drugs, and the White House Drug Policy site has a list of drugs you should flush.


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nobodymuch nobodymuch 8 years
Water supply tainted with low levels of the best antibiotic we have for treating garden variety urinary tract infections (an area of major antibiotic resistance problems and a reversible cause of preterm labor) is very scary to me. Sulfamethoxazole is also very important in other areas such as HIV management. Yikes. I can't see the other stuff posing too much of a threat but antibiotics are a problem.
jennjennnbubba jennjennnbubba 8 years
I'm with you wackdoodle, I would like a large glass of Valium Water or with this horrible headache I am having tonight, some Vicodin Water might be more appropriate.
JenniferIsabella JenniferIsabella 8 years
As scary as the thought of having Xanax tainted water, has anyone thought of the possibility of having even trace amounts of Cocaine or other illegal drugs in our drinking water?
wackdoodle wackdoodle 8 years
YES! I need to find the city with the Valium (diapamzam) and Relpax tainted water. Ah, I'd drink the water all day for relief from the overwhelming pain and constant nuisance of going to the pharmacy. Valium laden water would benefit everyone. :-)
jessr1214 jessr1214 8 years
definitely scary. especially antibiotics...low levels of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria since it's not enough to actually kill them but can cause resistant strains to arise. thats why the low levels of antibiotics being fed to a lot of livestock is such a big problem because it ends up in meat.
gabiushka gabiushka 8 years
Just yesterday I mentioned on Bella Sugar that also the hormones in the urine of women that are on the pill end up in drinking water, since water is not treated against hormones, and those hormones end up affecting men's fertility.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
Oh wow this is scary!
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
that's kind of scary to think about. my mom and oldest brother are REALLY allergic to some medications and to think that they could get sick from drinking water is just a very unsettling thought. do you think that water filter systems help out in this case or no?
ella1978 ella1978 8 years
I've been reading about this for a while now, and it's amazing what things are in your drinking water. The thing that I always wonder about... what if you are allergic to any of these drugs? They may be a WAY low dosage, but can they be affecting your immune system? Seems possible, who knows. Good article though.
0fashionqueen 0fashionqueen 8 years
As scary as this sounds, but that is true. A lot of things do get flush down a toilet, but me I just throw all my unused medication in the garbage.
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