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Mike Ferrara
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Drugs in Our Drinking Water but Big Pharma Won't Test

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A recent Associated Press investigation showed that over 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals are legally (yes, legally) released by US manufacturers, including drugmakers, into water that is used for drinking.

The investigation also showed that the federal government has consistently overlooked this contamination by neglecting to test for drugs in our water.

Federal and industry officials say they don’t know the extent to which pharmaceuticals are released by US manufacturers because no one tracks them—as drugs. But a close analysis of 20 years of federal records found that, in fact, the government unintentionally keeps data on a few, allowing a glimpse of the pharmaceuticals coming from factories. –AP

Last year, we learned from The Associated Press that American drinking water often contains trace amounts of active pharmaceuticals, including epilepsy drugs, anti-depressants and contraceptives.

But apparently, drug manufacturers do not test their waste water, and are not required to by law. The EPA does not test the drug manufacturers’ waste water. And the FDA does not test the drug manufacturers’ waste water.

"Manufacturers have to be in compliance with all relevant environmental laws," said Alan Goldhammer, a scientist and vice president at the industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Goldhammer conceded some drug residues could be released in wastewater, but stressed "it would not cause any environmental issues because it was not a toxic substance at the level that it was being released at." -AP

Despite these assurances, scientists have found that even at extremely low concentrations, pharmaceuticals can harm fish, frogs and other aquatic life. They have also found that even trace amounts of certain drugs can cause abnormal human cell growth in lab tests. No one knows yet how decades of ingesting trace amounts of drugs in our water day in and day out will affect our health.

It’s absurd: the drug manufacturers need to be required to test their waste water for the drugs they produce, and stop contributing to our water contamination.