What To Do About Drugs In Your Drinking Water
James P McMahon
A study released by the Associated Press on Monday March 10 showed test results indicating that some 41 million Americans drink water containing trace levels of a wide variety of pharmaceuticals. Since then consumers around the country have been in a panic to learn what they can do to remove these contaminants. A September 2008 update of the study increases the number of exposed individuals to 46 million. Many people are purchasing water treatment equipment in an attempt to find peace of mind.
There are problems with making a quick decision and I’d like to point those out.
First, the AP study recommended reverse osmosis as the treatment method that proved most effective in removing pharmaceuticals from water. This is true. What the study did not mention is that you may not have drugs in your water so before you rush out in a panic you should first determine that.
Reverse Osmosis typically refers to a multi-stage system in which one stage consists of a film membrane. Water is forced through the membrane leaving contaminants behind. This removes not only contaminants but also naturally occurring minerals. Numerous studies funded by the World Health Organization show that people who drink water with minerals suffer lower rates of disease than people who do not. However this issue simply does not matter if you do have pharmaceuticals in your water - you want to get them out.
Another issue with reverse osmosis is that because water is the universal solvent removing minerals will lower the pH of that water. You will therefore be drinking acidic water, which some health practitioners would suggest is unhealthy. I recommend drinking water that is pH neutral or only slightly alkaline. Most city water is already alkaline. I modify the reverse osmosis system I sell to raise the pH.
Finally, reverse osmosis systems have been known to grow bacteria colonies or mold in the storage tank. If you are going to use reverse osmosis you also must be sure to clean the system annually or you may create new problems with your water.
Each of these objections to reverse osmosis can be overcome by purchasing a system that addresses them. You may request info and pricing on Sweetwater's Custom Reverse Osmosis system
The way to make certain that you are purchasing the correct system for your water is to start by looking at a copy of your city’s water report. You may call the city and request a copy and can often find it online with a simple search for ‘your city, state water quality report’. Because pharmaceuticals and other complex chemicals are not regulated you won’t find them listed in this report. What you will find in the text is your water source – be it a lake, river, or well. If the source is surface water such as a lake or river, then just look upstream. If there are cities upstream of your water source then you do indeed have these kinds of contaminants in your water.
Next, look at the table of contaminants in your water report. These will guide you in determining the type of home water purification system that will serve you best. You want to buy the system that removes the contaminants in your water.
Regardless of the presence of drugs in your drinking water or not, chlorinated tap water has been linked to a variety of cancers and other health issues. The problem of municipal tap water is one of both language and perception. Your city water utility manager will tell you that your water is safe and meets all EPA standards. The fact remains that drinking chlorinated water is not safe even if it does meet EPA standards. These standards are a political compromise and only tangentially based upon health.
People expect government agencies to deliver water that is safe and this is unrealistic. The world has grown very complex and the fact is that there is much we do not know. Keep in mind that there are thousands of man made chemicals all of which are potentially in your water. Additional studies of the unregulated contaminants are necessary and perhaps most importantly we need to identify which treatment processes, including carbon, reverse osmosis, and ozone will remove them.
Rather than rushing out and buying a water purification system that may bring you peace of mind without providing you with the actual protection you need, take the time to consider where you live and which water purification system will provide you with the healthiest water for your area.
You may request info and pricing on Sweetwater's Custom Reverse Osmosis system
You may view the AP study here:
This article discusses treatment methods to remove pharmaceuticals from your water:
This article discusses the disposal of large amounts of unused pharmaceuticals from hospitals:
And this article discusses the potential impact of trace amounts of drugs on human cells:
"What's in YOUR Water?"
James P McMahon Ecologist
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Sweetwater, LLC 375 Cedar Tree Drive, Brookside, UT 84782