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Posted on Mar 20, 2012

Drugs in our Drinking Water

As if we didn’t have enough worries about the quality of our drinking water, we now find that antibiotics, growth hormones and many prescription drugs are being detected in our public and private water systems.

It’s not a very pleasant thought, but on the average, about 10% of the water we drink has been used before.

The same amount of water that exists on this planet today… existed millions of years ago… to the drop! There is no such thing as new water. Our planet continuously recycles and re-uses this finite supply of water. Only recently have we learned how fragile and finite our water resources really are. We are finding traces of compounds in our water that no one ever thought to look for before. We have finally realized that any chemical used in our society will eventually wind up in our drinking water

While the current focus by the media on tap water problems has raised long overdue concerns, it is not a new issue. In 1999, a 17-year-old West Virginia high school student, Ashley Mulroy, read a report in a science magazine describing how European scientists had recently discovered that “drugs of all kinds, including antibiotics, were flowing in rivers, streams, ground water and even in tap water” and decided to embark on a science project of her own. Over a ten-week period Ashley and her mother drove for miles along the Ohio River taking samples of the water from different sites. She then returned to her hometown and had the samples tested for three common antibiotics: penicillin, tetracycline and vancomycin… to her surprise she found traces of all three in each of the samples she had taken. Ashley then sampled tap water in three near by towns. All three, including water from the drinking fountain at her school, were contaminated with the antibiotics in question. Ashley was awarded several science project awards and more importantly opened the eyes of many U.S. scientists.

Researchers from the U.S. EPA and the National Geological Survey have now found traces of antibiotics, birth control drugs, anti-depressants and even caffeine in many water samples taken across the country. Large animal farming operations and wastewater treatment plants release billions of gallons of contaminated wastewater into our environment every day. A large percentage of the drugs that are given to humans and animals pass through the body and wind up in this recycled wastewater and then in our drinking water.

As early as 2000, USA Today, in a news release, stated that “experts fear that even low levels of antibiotics fouling the nations water supply may help create super-bugs: micro organisms that have evolved to survive an antibiotic’s lethal assault.” And that these super-bugs may be causing ‘tens of thousands’ of deaths each year in the U.S.A., according to Abigail Salyers, an expert on antibiotic resistance at the University of Illinois.

Christian Daughton, a Chief of Environmental Chemist for the E.P.A., warns that “Water pollution by drugs is a newly emerging issue.” The reality is that there is little information on the long term effects of consuming low levels of antibiotics and growth hormones, but everyone agrees that they will not be good.

Our public water treatment plants are not designed to remove drugs and other synthetic chemicals from our water. Without waiting for the final verdict on the actual effects of drinking a mixture of drugs and other chemicals, we can assume that they will be negative. The only question is… how negative and why wait?

Most all prescription drugs and pharmaceuticals are synthetic organic chemicals (SOCs) and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and can be filtered out with quality home water filtration. Look for systems that are certified for the reduction of VOCs and THMs to address this issue.

The only way to get truly healthful drinking water is to make it yourself with a home water filtration system.

Aquasana makes clean, healthy water affordable and convenient.



  1. Does Aquasana have any data on specific pharmaceuticals that the carbon block filters can reduce? Thank you.

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