It’s been almost a year since I first wrote a post on this topic and I’m happy to see that the story has finally reached a wider audience. BUT, there are a few important qualifiers that need to be reiterated. First off, even though the amount of drugs detected was very small, that’s not to say that they can’t have any physiological effects.
We already know that hormones like those used in oral contraceptives also work at small doses, but for the other drugs and their byproducts we still don’t know what the longterm effects are, if any. So what should we do? Drinking bottled water is not really going to help since most of the sources of water that are used, at least for the big brands such as Dasani and Aquafina, are really just repackaged tap water anyway. Even if these products are filtered, I don’t think that they are actively removing the pharmaceuticals or their byproducts from the water.
What should be done? Since people shouldn’t stop taking their medications anytime soon (probably quite the opposite with an aging population), I think the first thing that should be done is to create a buy back program for unused medications so that they can be properly disposed of, not unlike existing deposits on some glass and plastic bottles. Along with a good public education campaign, we might help prevent people from flushing unused pills down their toilets.
The most positive thing that might come out of all of these reports is the realization that we live in somewhat of a fixed system. The water that’s in your toilet today may be in your latte tomorrow. Not exactly tomorrow, maybe next year, or the year after… I’m sure you get the idea.