Riverkeeper, a New York-based environmental group that inspired river-, bay- and water-keepers worldwide, has proposed a three-pronged plan for reducing or eliminating the presence of pharmaceuticals in drinking water.
The presence of a wide range of over-the-counter and prescription drugs, including antibiotics and hormones, was publicized by the Associated Press this week, after years of findings by government and independent scientists.
Riverkeeper, which is a watchdog for New York City's water supply, the largest unfiltered municipal supply in the country, suggested these three steps:
The federal government should fund and conduct a national study that provides risk assessments for pharmaceuticals in our waters and measures the potential human and aquatic health effects.
The federal government should enact a comprehensive national take back prescription drug protocol so people aren't tempted to flush unused medications.
To properly dispose of medication, keep it in its plastic container, fill it with water and kitty litter or sand, place the cap on the bottle, put it into a zip lock plastic bag, then dispose of it in the trash. The other option for discarding medications is to take them to your local hazardous waste facility or hazardous waste clean up day location.
Municipal water supply managers, like New York's Department of Environmental Protection, should test for pharmaceuticals in tap water and watersheds that supply drinking water, and those results should be made available to the public.
Riverkeeper doesn't address a couple of thorny problems: Most of the pharmaceuticals found in water supplies are believed to have originated from myriad medicated Americans. The body naturally excretes some amount of the medications we ingest, so preventing unnecessary flushing of unused medications addresses only part of the source. Also, farms are a big source of these contaminants, particularly antibiotics and hormones.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.