Something in the water protection acts

by camerontyler on November 10, 2012

  • Sumo

(US law) You’ve probably heard of Vitamin Water, but Prescription Medication Water? It doesn’t sound like something that could catch on, but you may have access to this at your personal tap and not even know it.

When was the last time you filled a glass of water from your tap with the express intention of drinking it? Some of us still drink our tap water freely; others have adopted pitcher, faucet or refrigerator water filters that remove most of the less-than-favorable stuff from water. In most cases, your tap water is still fine.

Of course, it’s still likely that you’ll find non-lethal amounts of substances like copper, lead, nitrate and E. coli – but the key phrase is “non-lethal.” There are other things you may find in your water that aren’t doing anything for your health. In recent years, substances that have turned up in tap water include chemicals found in gasoline, hormones and even a cancer drug.


There are a lot of protective acts over water, as well there should be since we need it to live. We have the Clean Water Act; the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000; the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments Section 6217; the Endangered Species Act; the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act; the Safe Drinking Water Act and a whole slew of executive orders on top of this. The Environmental Protection Agency sets standards and limits for what is deemed “safe” drinking water and oversees any water supplier to ensure standards are followed. Although, some studies have shown that “safe” levels of some chemicals – arsenic, for example – may actually be harmful in levels that are lower than EPA-approved levels.


You’ve probably had a doctor tell you at some point to flush your leftover drugs down the toilet. This prevents you from taking prescription pills that are past their prime, as well as keeps them out of the hands of children or anyone else who doesn’t need them. What you don’t think about is that those toilets ultimately lead to our rivers and streams. In fact, geologists have found pharmaceuticals in 80 percent of streams in the United States.

While low levels of any specific drug may not have any terribly negative impact, it certainly isn’t favorable. Moreover, it’s not just one drug being found; it’s a veritable smorgasbord of prescription drugs, many of which you can guarantee have the “Do not take if you are also taking…” label advisory. It’s the “prescription cocktail” that poses the real problem.

How did this happen, with so many laws protecting our water? It’s quite simple, actually: pharmaceutical drugs aren’t regulated in our water system. The EPA lists a number of chemical contaminants, but very few of those are chemicals found in prescription drugs.

The fix

If you haven’t graduated to the world of filtered water yet, it may be time to do so. There are a wide variety of filters on the market, but studies have shown that reverse-osmosis/UV filters may be the most effective. The downside is that those particular filters may be too expensive for some homeowners. Boiling your water kills viruses and bacteria, but boiling can concentrate other contaminants in water.

Of course, you should also test your tap water. Even though things like prescription medication won’t show up on the report, it will give you a good idea of any other potential problems with your water, and will certainly give you a place to start.



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