Medications in our water? 4 Ways to Help

Emilie Wetzel
Aug 21, 2017

Guest Blog by TTF Intern, Sandy SpreckleyPharmaceuticals – including antibiotics, hormones, mood stabilizers, and over-the-counter medications – are in our drinking water supply. These medications are present in low amounts in our water as a result of unused medication that have been flushed down the toilet, or medications that have simply been metabolized by our bodies and transferred into our waste. Nobody really knows if the levels of these chemicals are low enough to discount harmful human health effects, but they have been known to affect aquatic life, and even birds and plants. There have been many studies about fish exposed to estrogen-like substances, such as oral contraceptives or hormones, which have shown populations of fish displaying both male and female reproductive characteristics, which alters the ratio of male to female fish in the population, as well as altering their behaviors, making it harder for them to catch food and procreate.

The use of pharmaceuticals has been increasing at a rapid rate. Our bodies can only metabolize a fraction of the drugs we swallow or apply as creams, and we excrete or sweat out much of the remainder.  Additionally, about half of the medications prescribed or bought over-the-counter are discarded improperly. Water treatment facilities are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals from the water, which results in trace amounts of medicines in our drinking water. The effect of these chemicals on human health is still unclear, but even hormones work at very low concentrations in the body, so they could show adverse effects in the near future.

Here’s 4 ways you can reduce the amount of pharmaceutical drugs entering our waterways:

  1. Limit bulk purchases of medications to limit the amount of wasted medications
  2. Use drug take-back programs that will discard of any unwanted medications in a safe and proper way: Montgomery County / Philadelphia County / Other PA County
3. Using a home water filtering system, like Pur Water Systems, could help reduce the amount of chemicals in your drinking water
  4. Do not flush or pour unused medications down the toilets or drains. Instead, mix the drugs with coffee grounds or kitty litter and place that mixture in a sealed container for proper disposal in a trashcan

Recommended reading:

Pharmaceuticals in the Environment

The Environmental Side Effects of Medication

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