Monday, March 2, 2009

Drugs Down the Toilet

(Submitted for publication in the UMA Bulletin; I am an Editorial Board member)

“They have found that a lot of prescription drugs are turning up in our drinking water. People not only pee drugs into in the toilet but they also dump the unused prescriptions in it. They have found hormones, antibiotics and many other kinds of drugs. Depressing news, don’t you think? Don’t worry about it: drink the water; it also has antidepressants and xanax.”

Funny. Not funny. But Leno is right.

Articles like “Drugs Are in the Water” have documented that a significant number of fish in the Potomac and its tributaries are hermaphrodites. Feminization is seen with drug concentration as low as 5 part per trillion. Fish swim in waters where 10+ pharmaceuticals have been detected. Every bluegill, black crappie and channel catfish had levels of antidepressants. A survey of 139 streams showed that 80% contained prescription drugs and fragrances, sunscreens, etc. They survive biodegradation and wastewater treatment.

An AP study showed that most drugs are metabolized only 80% which explains why antibiotics, antidepressants, anxiolytics, anticonvulsants and hormones re found in the drinking water of 41 million Americans. Twenty four major metropolitan areas were surveyed. Philadelphia had 56 types of drugs in its water. Unfortunately, this type of study is rarely made available to the public.

The problem is sure to be widespread since no tests are available to look for the problem. The EPA doesn’t know what to make of the whole thing: “a few parts per million of drugs in the water may or may not be a problem.”

I feel the problem seems obvious but we may be aware of only the tip of the iceberg; the effect of combinations of these chemicals and their additive/synergistic effect are not known. For sure we are seeing more antibiotic resistant bacteria.

In view of this pressing issue the Environmental Committee is contemplating bringing this issue to the floor of our upcoming House of Delegates meeting this year. Your input is welcome; we are not sure what measures we could take as doctors. But, in the meantime we encourage you to visit: for a list of places where our patients could drop off unused prescriptions (police stations and pharmacies.) Perhaps we could display said list prominently in our clinics. Maybe we could insist that all pharmacies do likewise. While we cannot tell patients to cross their legs and not pee, we could become more conservative in our prescribing habits.


At June 30, 2009 at 7:21:00 AM PDT , Anonymous Karey said...

Alors, qu'est-ce qu'on boit? L'eau 'purifié', est-il vraiment pur? Y-a-t'il un système de purification qui filtre les medicaments, lotions, et plus?

At June 30, 2009 at 3:09:00 PM PDT , Blogger Dr. Hugo Rodier said...

"So, what can we drink? Is filtered water really pure and filtered? Is there a system to to keep pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics, etc. out of our water supply?"

Cities throughout the USA are opening offices and drop off places for better disposal of drugs once they are stopped. In fact, the UMA is preparing to put out an official statement about this this Fall.

But, we are still urinating prescription drugs into our toilettes. The best policy is to realize that the pharmaceutical paradigm is not as benign as we have been led to believe. So, prescribing drugs should be done as conservatively as possible.
Commercial water bottles are questionable in purity. It is best to buy our own filters and carry water with us in glass containers. But, for practical purposes we still need the plastic commercial bottles. Still, we could stop buying bottles shipped (at considerable environmental harm) from places like France, i.e. Perrier. Sorry! Couldn't resist...

At July 6, 2009 at 1:59:00 PM PDT , Blogger Dr. Hugo Rodier said...

Here is a response in French for Karey and any other French-speaking readers:

"La majorite de Bureau de Sante aux Etats Unis ont des endroits designes pour se defaire des drogues discontinuees. Neanmois, les drogues qui nous prennons toujours sont eliminees dans l'urine. A mon avis, il faux devenir plus soigneux avec les drogues. Maintenant, l'ordinance de comprimes aux bureaux medicaux s'acheve trop vite est trop souvant.
Si vous voulez boire de l'eau bien purifie: achetez un appareil de filtration chez vous; portez de l'eau purifiee dans votre propre bouteille vitree. Malheureusement, les bouteilles commerciaux a plastique n'ont pas de l'eau bien purifiee. Finallement, c'est mieux pour l'environ d'eviter l'importation de l'eau qui depense trop d'energie pour les amener chez nous; Il nous faut quitter Perrier!
Desole,,, je ne peux pas m'enpecher..."


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