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March 31st, 2009

Medication in your water: Not what the doctor ordered

MedicineHow would you feel if you knew that you were unintentionally ingesting medications with your seafood? What about your drinking water? Well according to investigations being conducted by the Associated Press and the Environmental Protection Agency, that is exactly what is happening in various parts of the United States, including major metropolitan areas.

The seafood study focused on fish caught near wastewater treatment plants serving Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Orlando. Researchers found that these fish had residues of a variety of medicines in them, including those to treat allergies, high cholesterol and blood pressure, and bipolar disorder and depression. Not something you’d like to worry about when you’re ordering your next fish platter! Meanwhile, the water study showed that 41 million Americans are ingesting water with medication residues in them, with little known about the potential long-term effects.

Fish in an aquariumEarly research has shown that a person would need to eat hundreds of thousands of seafood dinners to get a single therapeutic dose of the pharmaceuticals found in fish tissue. However, research has yet to rule out whether the long-term consumption of diluted pharmaceuticals could be dangerous. In addition, there are substantial possible environmental implications for fish stocks , some previous research has shown, for instance, that fish whose systems collect too much antidepressant residue will experience behavioral effects that could impact their own survival, especially with regards to mating and fighting. Considering that this is only the first nationwide study of human drugs in fish tissue, there is still much to be learned.

It is inexcusable that in this day and age we have allowed something so vital as our access to clean, safe water to fall by the wayside. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that it will take hundreds of billions of dollars to undo the damage to our water infrastructure. While some have pushed for privatizing our water system in the hopes that this will fix the problem, doing this will only give the private water companies the opportunity to make decisions that focus on short-term profits rather than community needs.

The solution, however, is not to switch to bottled water. Last October, Food & Water Watch collaborated on a report with the Environmental Working Group that showed how ten popular U.S. bottled water brands contain mixtures of 38 different pollutants, including bacteria, fertilizer, Tylenol and industrial chemicals. Definitely not an indication of bottled water being safer than tap. This, among other reasons is why we instead need to push Congress and the Obama Administration toward establishing a Clean Water Trust Fund, and far stricter testing standards for drinking water.

You have the opportunity to get involved and tell Congress that the state of our water infrastructure, and the fact that contaminated drinking water and seafood is becoming the norm, is unacceptable. Click here to sign the petition for Congress to establish a Clean Water Trust Fund and take action towards improving the safety of our drinking water and our seafood.

-Sofía Baliño

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