8 Disturbing Drugs Lurking in Drinking Water
More than 60% of Americans are concerned about health risks associated with trace drugs, medications and chemicals found in drinking water. In 2014 to respond to these concerns, the National Sanitation Federation collaborated with ANSI to issue NSF/ANSI Standard 401, identifying fifteen emerging contaminants (ECs) and defining pivotal standards for the water treatment devices used to remove them.
As a result, manufacturers have developed a range of advanced filters capable of removing eight potentially harmful drugs and medications found lurking in most household tap water:
- Atenolol. A key ingredient in prescription beta-blocker medications used to treat chest pain, reduce blood pressure and protect against heart attacks, it can cause drowsiness, slowed heart rate, and cold fingers and toes.
- Carbamazepine. Used to treat seizures, nerve-related pain and bipolar disorders, this prescription medication can reduce birth control effectiveness, pass through breast milk and cause serious allergic reactions particularly in people of Asian descent.
- Estrone. One of three estrogen hormones, it’s an endocrine disruptor that can affect normal hormone production and interfere with the ability to properly utilize hormones.
- Ibuprofen. Classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), this over-the-counter medication alleviates aches and pains, but it and other NSAIDs can affect liver function.
- Meprobamate. Classified as a tranquilizer, this compound is used to treat anxiety symptoms and disorders. It has a direct effect on the brain and can cause drowsiness, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, racing heart and more.
- Naproxen. A common NSAID used to treat pain and inflammation, it can increase risks for bleeding, liver problems, and heart and blood vessel issues.
- Phenytoin. Used to control or prevent seizures, this prescription medication can prompt behavior changes and suicidal thoughts, and cause drowsiness, coordination problems and gum damage.
- Trimethoprim. Found in antibiotic prescription medicines, this compound can among other things affect blood sugar levels and cause diarrhea, liver problems and acute allergic reactions.
Typically, there are two ways these compounds find their way into the water stream: They’re excreted by medication users, and people flush unused or outdated medications. Because the compounds are unregulated, most public water treatment systems make no effort to remove them from the water supply.
While consuming trace quantities is unlikely to harm most healthy adults, the effects on infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems or other health issues are unknown. Similarly, the risks for interactions and the long-term effects associated with unintentionally ingesting low levels of an ever-changing mix of drugs and medications are also unknown.