Drugs in Our Drinking Water?
Experts put potential risks in perspective after a report that drugs are in the water supply.
Is there a health effect of drugs in drinking water?
All sides of the debate agree this is not known for sure. "At this point
we don't have evidence of a health effect," Rudzinski says, "although
it's an area of concern and one we will continue to look at."
Janssen agrees: "We don't know. It's true that the levels [of the
medications found in drinking water] are very low. But especially when it comes
to pharmaceuticals that are synthetic hormones, there is concern, because
hormones work at very low concentrations in the human body."
"We don't want people to be alarmed and think they can't drink their tap
water or that they shouldn't be drinking water," Janssen says. "We
think this report in particular is a call for our federal agencies -- EPA in
particular -- to do further studies to see what the health effects
EPA's ongoing research is focusing on the effect of pharmaceuticals in the
water supply on aquatic life and human health, Rudzinski says. But she could
not supply details of how much money is being allocated to that research effort
or when to expect answers.
Are certain people -- say pregnant women, children, the elderly -- more sensitive to the potential effects of drugs in the drinking water supply?
Again, it's not known, Janssen says. "We know that kids, including
babies and toddlers, as well as fetuses,
are more susceptible to environmental exposures because their bodies are still
developing and their exposure on a pound-per-pound basis is higher. And they
lack the detoxification system adults have. So it is not unreasonable to expect
they would be at higher risk."