By Shaaban FundiLast week I attended Advanced Placement Environmental Science educators training at Kennesaw State University “some place” in this massive city of Atlanta. In this training I learned different inquiry (lab) based methods of teaching advanced placement environmental science to students. It was a great week.
In one of the days during the training, we went to see a membrane bioreactor (MBR) sewage treatment plant. We talked about the advantages of an MBR over traditional sewage treatment plants. In the middle of this discussion, a person asked about pharmaceuticals? Does MBR sewage treatment process remove pharmaceuticals in the treated water? I am not exactly sure what the question was, but it was along those lines.
That question actually made me think twice about where do the medication (pills, injections, topical creams, etc) that millions and millions of people are taking everyday go? We know for a fact that what goes in must come out. It is a small portion of the medication we take that is actually metabolized– the rest is released to the environment through our urine, fecal matters and in so many other ways. But, where do these by-products go to after we flush the toilets and/or when dumped in landfills after they expire?
Pharmaceuticals are the biggest incoming environmental and health challenge of our time. There are millions and millions of people taking a variety of medication each single day. All these pharmaceuticals finally end up in our water ways. Most of these pharmaceuticals have long half-lives and also very few to zero natural microbes are able to metabolize them. Hence, they stay in the environment longer increasing the likelihood that their concentration will significantly increase in our water supply systems the next few years.
The effect to human and other animals is not very well documented as of yet. Some studies done on fish have shown negative effect to fish population exposed to elevated levels of pharmaceuticals in rivers, streams and lakes. Some male fish have actually turned into female when their habitats are exposed to high levels of pharmaceuticals for long duration. What these low concentrations of pharmaceuticals found in drinking water doing to the human body is currently a mystery.
Admittedly, the pharmaceuticals are in minute concentrations right now but since none of the water treatment plants can remove them from water–we are running the risk of their concentration increasing over the next few years.
In America right now there are no legislations to deal with pharmaceuticals in drinking water or the water that goes into the streams, rivers, and lakes. At the same time, trace amount of pharmaceuticals have already been recorded in many urban and suburban water supply systems. What is America going to do with this impending health and environmental problem?
I do not know about you, but I would rather not drink none-prescribed pills in the water I drink!!!!
With all the hormones, antidepressants, and other different types of medications in the drinking water supplies; no wonder–people can no-longer stand each- other.
And you are wrong even if you drink bottled water–you are still taking in pills!