Drugs on Tap: Dangerous Tap Water Contaminants on the Rise

Do you know what’s really in your drinking water?

Emerging contaminant threats in the water supply, things like pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, and hormones are garnering attention from public health experts and the federal government.


How do pharmaceuticals end up in the water supply?

The source of pharmaceuticals in water is not just from manufacturing plants. You probably know that antibiotics and drugs are used in the livestock industry, and for streams receiving runoff from animal-feeding operations, pharmaceuticals such as acetaminophen, caffeine, cotinine, diphenhydramine, and carbamazepine, have been found in studies.

Another source of pharmaceuticals in stream water is you and me. Essentially, drugs that people take internally are not all metabolized in the body, and the excess ends up in our wastewater leaving homes and entering the sewage-treatment plants. It might sound surprising that these drugs could be detected in streams miles downstream from wastewater-treatment plants, but many plants do not routinely remove pharmaceuticals from water.

Many of the more than 4,000 prescription medications used for human and animal health ultimately find their way into the environment. They can pollute directly from pharmaceutical manufacturing plants or from humans and animals. As these chemicals make their way into terrestrial and aquatic environments, they can affect the health and behavior of wildlife, including insects, fish, birds, and more.

How to purify my drinking water?

From a treatment perspective, pharmaceuticals are not unusual organic chemicals, and treatment removal rates are reasonably predictable based upon the physical and chemical properties of the compounds. Conventional treatment processes with coagulation, filtration and chlorination can remove about 50% of these compounds, whereas advanced treatment, such as ozonation, advanced oxidation, activated carbon and membrane processes (e.g. reverse osmosis, nanofiltration), can achieve higher removal rates; reverse osmosis, for example, can remove more than 99% of large pharmaceutical molecules. 

Have a look at the Osmo, the home water purifier from Osmosys, its 5+ stages including an improved version of reverse osmosis called intelligent osmosis makes sure no pharmaceuticals nor hormones find their way into your tap water. 

The bottom line

Pharmaceutical and hormonal contaminants, including bisphenol-A, antibiotics, and opiates, are being detected in a significant portion of groundwater supply for drinking water. Researchers say that the levels currently detected are unlikely to cause any harmful effects for now.

However, the results of potential long-term exposure to small amounts of pharmaceuticals is unknown, but worrisome.

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