Don't Drink the Water…

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Occurrence of Organic Wastewater Compounds in three tributaries to the Cuyahoga River: “a total of 12 antibiotic, 20 pharmaceutical, 41 wastewater, and 22 hydrophobic compounds were detected in water.”
This new government report on the contents of our water is disturbing to me. Not because we don’t already have a growing awareness that Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) are in our natural water courses. The reason it is disturbing to me is the extensive list of chemicals listed in this report.

In spite of the fact that over the last 40 years we have made great strides in reducing bacterial loads and known toxic chemicals from our water, our streams are still cocktails of antibiotics, birth control hormones, caffeine, and dozens of other chemicals. While the EPA says there is no known human health effects of PPCPs in the environment, the fact is we don’t know. Meanwhile, fish, aquatic plants, and wildlife (people?) that eat fish are getting low level, long term doses of a whole host of chemicals.

This report is about just a few small tributaries to the Cuyahoga, but this issue is relevant everywhere people live in high numbers. How many anti-biotic resistant strains of bacteria can develop in such environments? What happens to people who eat fish that take in birth control hormones from the water they live in?

The answer? We do not know. This is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed by a combination of education, regulation, and better scientific research.

For more information about PPCPs, visit the EPA’s web page.

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