Monday, March 10, 2008

Going Green take 2

I could put this in the comments under MaryAlice's recent post on Going Green, but I thought it was interesting enough to get its own post.

I saw this disturbing story today, and am really concerned about our water supply! Several years ago I read an article in Family Foundations Magazine about birth control hormones in our local lakes and streams. These hormones were causing changes in fish, specifically the male fish. Big surprise, now these hormones and pharmaceutical drugs are in our water supply. What we flush down the toilet gets filtered and cleaned, but trace amounts of the drugs we consume, from ibuprofen to birth control pills, eventually wind up coming back through our faucets. The water treatment plants are not high tech enough to remove many of the hormones and drugs from the water, so trace amounts remain.
Over the past five years, the number of U.S. prescriptions rose 12 percent to a record 3.7 billion, while nonprescription drug purchases held steady around 3.3 billion, according to IMS Health and The Nielsen Co.

"People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that's not the case," said EPA scientist Christian Daughton, one of the first to draw attention to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water in the United States.

Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.

Another issue: There's evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

Am I nuts here, or is this really creepy. I really wonder how all these trace chemicals are affecting our bodies, just read what they are doing to fish:

Recent laboratory research has found that small amounts of medication have affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. The cancer cells proliferated too quickly; the kidney cells grew too slowly; and the blood cells showed biological activity associated with inflammation.

Also, pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females.

Makes me think twice about popping an ibuprofen for a headache, or taking that unnecessary antibiotic just in case the illness is bacterial.

Last year my sister-in-law spent $6,000 on a reverse osmosis system for her house. I thought she was nuts as they don't have a lot of extra cash to spend and intensely purified water seemed a pretty low priority on my personal list of home improvement projects. Now she doesn't seem so crazy.


Juris Mater said...

Well, we all have to die some time. I can think of worse ways to go than as an androgynous mutant. We'll keep using our Brita pitcher filter and hope for the best...

Mary Alice said...

I'm so glad you posted this, I heard it on the radio this morning and was going to put it up. The flip side, though, is the corporate recruiting dinner I went to on Saturday where bottled water was being poured from the FIJI bottles. Presumably, we were all impressed by the firm, able to get us water all the way from Fiji, but all I could think of was the piles of bottles, probably thousands, that resulted from that party alone. Not to mention the oil for the tankers to get the water here -- FROM FIJI!

We do use spring water at home, though, we get 5 Gallons, re-usable poland spring bottles delivered, the water where I live is not even clear coming out of the tap.

In addition to being closer than Fiji, I like the idea of supporting the domestic economy, and it tastes great.

We have to use fluride supplements to make up for the mineral loss.

We do this only for drinking water, though, so whatever else is in there, we are bathing in it...

Mad Cow said...

Juris Mater,

And you were concerned about the lavender oil and soy products!

Seriously, Juris Mater. I thought the prospect of Bean growing breasts would have gotten you a bit more worried. Look what happened to those male fish.

Your friend,
Mad Cow

PS: Why isn't anyone mentioning the article's discussion of beef hormones entering the water supply? I found that the most troubling.