Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What's In Your Water?

First, we start with tons and tons of Prozac, along with all of the other jim-dandy anti-depressants on the market today. Then we mix in an unhealthy dose of Ridilin, birth control pills and antibiotics. To this noxious stew, we add copious amounts of Viagra, the little purple pill, pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and laxatives. Flush this toxic mix down the toilet, along with all of the outdated prescription drugs in our bathrooms, and what do we have? Our drinking water.
That’s right. What goes into our drinking water, stays in our drinking water.

Every time we go to the bathroom, our bodies expel measurable amounts of whatever we have put into our systems that day. In fact, much of the ingredients in the pills we consume like candy are not entirely processed and are then simply pissed away. Pharmaceutical companies know this and that’s why they ramp up the dosage. They know that when we take a pill to make us better, much of the ingredients are not entirely absorbed by our internal organs, and goes right down the drain. That’s why, for instance, you get 300% of the recommended daily dosage of Riboflavin or B12 when you take your daily vitamin.

Most folks probably assume this isn’t a problem because this toxic brew is undoubtedly filtered out at the water treatment plant, right? Wrong!

There are no filters. These chemicals are not even monitored.

When you hear about how badly the Chesapeake Bay is polluted, the scientists and experts are essentially talking about two ingredients: nitrogen and phosphorous. That’s it. And at this point, the chemical cocktail coming through the pipes from every household on public water and sewer is completely off the radar screen.

What health threat, if any, might such a chemical concoction pose for humans and the rest of the animal community? No one knows. Few are even studying the problem.

It wasn’t until we started seeing mutated crabs, amphibians magically changing sex, and rockfish with weird appendages sprouting from their bodies, that the scientific world started to wonder whether there might be a connection between the unseen chemicals in our rivers, and what is looking like a planetary-wide genetic problem with many aquatic species.

Back in 2000, the United States Geological Service took water samples in 139 streams in 30 states, including Maryland, and found significant traces of at least one pharmaceutical product in over 80 percent of the water samples. Over ten percent had more than 20 contaminants.

Many of the chemicals discovered in our waterways have been studied for years and are known to be endocrine disrupters which can wreck havoc with the immune system and hormonal balance of many aquatic species.

To complicate matters, farm animals are also being loaded up with all sorts of antibiotics and growth hormones that end up going directly into the nearest body of water. Add to this mess the myriad of personal care products which we rub into our bodies – cosmetics, lotions, sunscreens, bug sprays – and you have a real recipe for disaster. We don’t even begin to know the health risk posed by this lengthy list of manmade products, and we know even less about what sorts of threats may ensue after they get mixed together in the nation’s water supply. Mix Backwoods Off with the latest cholesterol drug and what do you get? Who knows?

Isn’t it ironic that after spending so much money studying the environmental problems of the Chesapeake Bay for so long, no one has the foggiest idea what all these modern day chemical wonders are doing to the health of fish and humans? Scientists can tell us exactly how much nitrogen is flowing out of the South River, but they can’t tell us why some of the catfish in Crab Creek look like something out of a science fiction movie.

Why do we continue to ignore this health and safety issue? Why is it that the EPA does not require wastewater treatment plants to test for these pharmaceutical time bombs? And why are there no guidelines for acceptable levels of these chemicals in our drinking water?

In the end, it always comes down to money. Companies make millions of dollars off these products. Monitoring programs at every water plant and waterway would cost billions. And filters capable of removing these potentially harmful chemicals are not available at the industrial level and would cost trillions. Government simply does not have the money.

I was talking to the Susquehanna River Keeper, Michael Helfrich, the other day and he offered this ominous warning, “Right now, no one’s paying attention to this chemical contamination, but this is a problem that will not go away.”


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