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Nearly three years ago Heartland Healing covered the issue of drugs in America’s tap water. The topic is in the news again after an Associated Press investigative report found that 41 million Americans are exposed to prescription drugs just by drinking tap water.

That drugs are in our nation’s streams and lakes is not news. It’s not even news that they are in our tap water. The AP report, though, emphasizes how widespread the problem is. It shouldn’t surprise us. A Kaiser Foundation survey found that 91 percent of Americans surveyed say they take prescription drugs. Many take more than one every day. And we’re a nation that believes in drugs for almost any use. We feed all kinds of drugs to livestock and chickens, and those ex- cesses were some of the first to show up.

A 1999 study in Nebraska raised a red flag in the academic community about hormones in our rivers. Downstream from a feedlot near the Elkhorn River, researchers found levels of hor- mones in streams and two sources of tap water. Research in the early ’90s “discovered wildlife showing developmental, neurologic, and endo- crine alterations” due to the hormone drugs giv- en cattle and released in feedlot effluent. What surprises most people now is realizing that when pharmaceutical drugs like Prozac, Paxil, Vicodin, antibiotics, potent chemotherapy drugs and hormone treatments are released into our water sources they aren’t removed by municipal water treatment facilities; they turn up in our lemonade or morning coffee. Drugs get into our drinking water in some astonishingly stupid ways. Leftover prescriptions are dumped into the toilet. The White House Drug Policy website even includes that suggestion. Probably the greatest introduction of human pharmaceuticals into our tap water comes from human urine. Much of the active drug passes through the human system, passed through the bladder and down the toilet.

Water treatment plants do a pretty good job of removing solid particles, mud, bacteria and the like. But they are not designed to handle pharmaceutical drugs. And they don’t. Most, including Omaha, don’t even test for them. So, they end up in tap water. The levels of residual drugs in tap water vary in every case, but they are infinitesimal. But just because the amounts are small does not mean we know the amounts are safe, especially in the long term.

Amphibians, fish and other aquatic creatures are on the frontline of the food chain that water pollution will affect first. For decades, scientists have associated hormone drug pollution in streams with male fish displaying shriveled testes and low sperm count. Similar radical changes are evident in the reproductive organs of female fish. Animal behaviorists note levels of Paxil in river fish seem to correlate with reproduction problems. Small amounts of drugs can alter the physiology and behavior of animals. We simply do not know what the long-term effects of drinking or bathing in drug-laced tap water will be for humans. We should have the option of bathing and drinking with drug-free water but right now, municipal technologies can’t cope with dope. That leaves point-of-use systems in the home.

"There’s only one reliable way to remove pharmaceutical drugs from home tap water and that’s reverse osmosis,” said Phil Rhodes, Jr. of Futuramic Products in Omaha. “But on a municipal scale RO is much more expensive than the current ways cities do it. Water for human consumption accounts for only
about 2 percent of usage so it’s just not cost-effective to remove all the drugs from the 98 percent of municipal water that ends up watering lawns or washing driveways. Point-of-use makes sense."

For two generations, since 1969, Futuramic Products has been supplying water treatment technology to homes and businesses in the Mid- west. To get rid of the prescription drugs in your tap water, there are home RO units. Usually it’s not practical to do RO for the entire home sys- tem; the unit is often placed under a sink and pure water drawn from a special tap.

“I just read a recent report that showed every drug tested for was removed by RO,” Rhodes continued. “So it’s very effective in removing them across the board. We have a copy of the report at our office."

Reverse osmosis uses water pressure to drive tap water through a special filtering membrane. The water that passes through is virtually de- void of all particles down to the molecular level. That includes drug molecules. Only a portion of the water is forced through the membrane and is purified. The rest is sent to the drain. That means there is some waste.

“It takes four gallons to make one. Three gallons go down the drain. It sounds like a lot but we don’t drink much water compared to other uses of municipal water,” Rhodes reminded.

Carbon Credits
Carbon filtration is another way of purifying municipal water once it gets to your home, but it doesn’t work for drugs.
“A good carbon system will pull chlorine out but not so effective on chloramine. They have to be set up right. One customer brought in a tap carbon filter he bought. We tested and found the level of chloramines the same as straight tap water,” Rhodes said. Some people put a carbon filter on the house system and RO on the drinking and cooking side of things.

The Cost of Clean
Buying bottled water isn’t the answer, either. There is little regulation. Distilled or RO will be the purest. But there is tremendous waste in buying plastic bottles. Some cities and busi- nesses have banned plastic personal-sized water bottles. Having an RO unit in the home starts to make great sense and it’s cheap. For example, Futuramic offers a home unit that fits under a sink for $18.50 per month. Installation is free.

Drugs belong in prescription bottles, not water bottles

Be well.
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Heartland Healing is devoted to the examination of various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information and not as medical advice. It is not meant as an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or by Heartland Healing Center, Inc.

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