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Medicine Earth Science

Drugs In Our Drinking Water 483

MikeURL alerts to a AP story just published after a months-long investigation on the vast array of pharmaceuticals present in US drinking water. These include antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, and sex hormones, as well as over-the-counter drugs. Quoting: "To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe. But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health."
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Drugs In Our Drinking Water

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  • by Genocaust ( 1031046 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:27PM (#22694932)
    Really? Shit sure doesn't seem to be working on my wife.
  • Perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:29PM (#22694948) Homepage
    I'd like to see the levels present in the average American's blood-stream.
    • Re:Perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

      by psychodelicacy ( 1170611 ) <> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:43PM (#22695096)
      Me too. I'd also be interested to know whether these quantities, even if they're far below therapeutic doses, could make drugs less effective when people take them. For example, are antibiotics getting into the water and, if so, might we start to develop immunity even if we've never taken them directly?
      • Re:Perspective (Score:5, Informative)

        by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:08PM (#22695272) Journal
        For example, are antibiotics getting into the water and, if so, might we start to develop immunity even if we've never taken them directly?

        You do not develop an immunity to antibiotics. Bacteria do. Whether or not you personally get a mini-dose of antibiotics has not bearing on that.

        On the other hand, if we are all getting a mini-dose, then those bacteria that are antibiotic resistant will proser all the more. Also consider that it isn't only humans that would be getting these mini-doses.

        Yet another example of the "no man is an island" truism.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by netwiz ( 33291 )
          considering that one part per trillion means that in an 8-ounce glass, you get one frickin' molecule, I really doubt that this is presenting any kind of selection pressure on the symbiotic bacteria in your body.
          • Re:Perspective (Score:4, Interesting)

            by MrNaz ( 730548 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @09:46PM (#22696302) Homepage
            One part per billion of some, and one per trillion for others. TFA may have more details, but I won't waste your time with trivialities such as article reading.

            Furthermore, constant, low grade exposure of bacteria to antibiotics places selection pressure on those that are resistant. I have a problem with the creation of an environment where antibiotic resistant bacteria are encouraged.

            I'd also want to know the rationale behind sex hormones in the water. I've also been interested in the nature of the so-called sexual liberation of the 90s, and how that influences the political power balance between government and the governed. Sex has been, in my view, an integral part of the circuses half of the bread and circuses act for quite some time. Encouraging a mindless consumerist culture is easier when you bind it with sex, as you add a natural urge to the equation making the lifestyle of flagrant instant gratification and blissful ignorance even more seductive to the masses. Anyone from 100 years ago would consider our society unbearably sexually depraved, and it's only going further down that road. Mothers now dress pre-pubescent daughters in designer clothes that are designed to be sexually provocative. I find nothing more disgusting than an 8 year old in hotpants and a boob tube. Mothers: Women's liberation != Looking like the village slut.

            Wait, I'm giving advice to mothers on the women's movement? Clearly I've totally lost track of what site I'm on.
            • Re:Perspective (Score:4, Informative)

              by ppanon ( 16583 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @10:59PM (#22696750) Homepage Journal
              The sex hormones are used to encourage growth in plants and animals. Many plants and animals raised with intensive farming techniques are treated with molecules that are estrogen precursors.

              Have you heard how girls are reaching menarche at a younger age than a few decades ago and male sperm counts are dropping? "Better" growing up through chemistry.
            • Re:Perspective (Score:4, Interesting)

              by bogjobber ( 880402 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:51AM (#22697530)
              Anyone from 100 years ago would consider our society unbearably sexually depraved, and it's only going further down that road.

              They would probably also be outraged that a black man and white woman were leading presidential candidates. Why the fuck would we judge our society today on what someone from 100 years ago *might* have thought?

            • Re:Perspective (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Eivind ( 15695 ) <> on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:20AM (#22698140) Homepage

              Anyone from 100 years ago would consider our society unbearably sexually depraved,

              No, that's just factually wrong. It depends very much on *who* from 100 years ago. From which culture, and which aspects of "our" culture. (I suppose you're talking American culture, it's not the same even across first-world countries, not even close)

              For example, you people manage to debate for WEEKS and write THOUSANDS of webpages, newspaper-articles, BLOG-entries and whatnot on the topic of showing a single naked female breast on TV for perhaps 5 seconds. Which is just ridicolously prude.

              You also have, if I got it correctly, 18 as age of consent in many jurisdictions, an age where many people a hundred years ago would expect to be married already and certainly sexually active.

              In general there's a large moral panic in the USA about children and sexuality. Elder Scrolls was rated 13+, a game where you run around and kill beasts and humans, blood squirting. Then it gor re-rated "mature" 17+ because someone made a mod that made female characters run around topless.

              I could give more examples like these, but there's no point, I'm sure you can think of them yourself.
            • ...Wait, who thought "women's liberation" (what's with the outdated terminology?) constituted dressing eight year olds in hotpants? Are you seriously claiming this practice is the result of feminism, and if so, can you tell me what the hell they're putting in the drinking water over there in Melbourne? Clearly you guys get better drugs than we do here in California.
          • Re:Perspective (Score:5, Informative)

            by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @09:46PM (#22696306)

            Try again. Avogadro's number [] is 6.022 E 23. A drug like penicillin has a molecular weight of 334. Other drugs will be heavier or lighter, but generally within a factor of 10. 8oz of water is 236g. That combines to give about 400 billion (4 E 11) molecules of penicillin at 1 part per trillion (1 E -12).

            Molecules are small. Even mildly complex organic ones like drugs. Check your intro chem text before spouting off about such things.

      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:36PM (#22695492) Journal
        Well, I wouldn't worry yet:

        1. Let's start with the easy stuff first, with the ibuprofen and opiates and whatnot.

        For a starter, your organism is already good at dealing with stuff that doesn't belong there. The liver alone gets rid of maybe three quarters of the medicines ever invented. Infinitesimal doses of even some pretty toxic stuff don't really get to do much damage or addiction or whatever, before they're neutralized or filtered out.

        But for what you ask, pretty much you just have to make the following distinction:

        A) Those who don't cause addiction, i.e., the over-the-counter stuff, well, those don't matter. The organism doesn't compensate in the other direction for those, or not for long. But if you're worried anyway, read on, the reason to not worry is:

        B) Those which do cause addiction... well, those don't matter either when measured in parts per trillion.

        Physiological addiction is when the body adjusts in the other direction. E.g., a cigarette makes you feel good, among other things, because it inhibits MAO-B, which is to say: works much the same as antidepressant medication. But your body gradually adjusts by producing _more_ MAO-B to get back to the normal baseline. Due to this adjustment, now you feel shitty without them, and eventually you need your smoke even just to get where a non-smoker is without them. That's addiction.

        Well, the reason you don't need to worry about those is that your body adjust gradually towards a point that's proportional to the perturbation. If you perturb the system by 0.00000001% in one direction, the "correction" will be at most 0.00000001% in the other direction. If at all.

        2. Antibiotics have been around long before humans knew about them. In fact, long before humans even existed. Penicillin, the first discovered antibiotic, is produced naturally by a fungus. (And conversely a bunch of bacteria kill fungi.)

        Traces of penicillin were present almost everywhere, if nothing else, because rain got it everywhere. And yet superbugs didn't happen before humans got into antibiotics. Probably evolving the relevant mutations was more of a disadvantage when you _weren't_ on top of a penicillinum patch.

        At any rate, to get back to something a bit more certain, infinitesimal traces of antibiotics in the water or in your body, don't create much of an evolutionary pressure. Bacteria _can_ survive one or two broken penicillin-binding proteins, for example because a freak accident made them meet a penicillin-type mollecule in the water. Heck, they lose some now and then even just to C14 decay, plus other natural causes. They'll just produce more of those proteins. That's what they have ribosomes for.

        The moment when evolution happens is when there's a clear advantage in having a particular mutation. This typically means having a high chance of ending up dead without it. E.g., when you take antibiotics for a pneumonia, the concentrations there are high enough that a heck of a lot of "unprotected" bacteria just die. That's one heck of a natural selection of those who do have defenses. By contrast, being slightly inconvenienced, and only rarely, by traces of antibiotics in water, doesn't quite count as an evolutionary pressure.
        • by jbengt ( 874751 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @09:02PM (#22696010)
          You're probably correct about the miniscule antibiotic resistance building trends of miniscule amounts of antibiotics in the water and definitely correct not to worry about addictions to pain killers.

          But that logic doesn't hold for the hormones or hormone-mimicking properties of substances found in the water. Some hormones routinely affect biological processes at concentrations measured in parts per billion. This is especially true in developing organisms, where, e.g., gradients of such miniscule concentrations can determine which end of an embryo is the head and which is the tail.

          The truth is we don't know the effect that these artificial chemicals will have on us or on the environment.
  • LSD (Score:5, Funny)

    by McGiraf ( 196030 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:29PM (#22694950)
    What! no LSD yet? When will these lazy hippies finally get to it?
    • Re:LSD (Score:5, Informative)

      by asuffield ( 111848 ) <> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @08:03PM (#22695702)

      What! no LSD yet? When will these lazy hippies finally get to it?

      The mildly amusing flaw in that old tale is that LSD is actually quite unstable, and if you put it in the drinking water it would break down long before it got anywhere near anybody's houses. It has to be carefully stored if you want to keep it for more than an hour or so.

      Also, the dose required for LSD to function is so minute compared to most drugs that it would be quite obvious if it was there. Even in small numbers of parts per million, you'd likely be tripping.

      It's really quite a strange chemical.
    • Re:LSD (Score:4, Funny)

      by Viceroy Potatohead ( 954845 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @11:30PM (#22696926) Homepage
      We decided against it. The world is weird enough as it is, and it appears too many people (generally well armed) are in the midst of bad trips, anyhow. However, intriguing patterns, such as paisley, Atari graphics, or mirrors are still available to help us all through this difficult time.

      This is a community service message brought to you by The-People-Who-Were-Fired-Out-Of-A-Gun-Lined With-Baroque-Paintings-Into-A-Sea-Of-Electricity[Wade Davis reference].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:31PM (#22694960)
    I fail to see the problem. However, what I do see is a pink elephant running across my living room carpet as I write this. The good news is that I am very calm as I know the purple dolphins in my kitchen will protect me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:32PM (#22694968)
    They're corrupting our precious bodily fluids!
    • Re:It's the commies (Score:4, Informative)

      by damburger ( 981828 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:33PM (#22695476)

      I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

      From Dr. Strangelove. Whoever modded down parent wants slapping.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        From Dr. Strangelove. Whoever modded down parent wants slapping.
        Don't be too hard on them. The mods have been drinking a lot of tap water lately.
  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:33PM (#22694986)
    Just think of the consequences if homeopathic remedies - which are supposed to work better with minuscule quantities of an "active" ingredient - get into our drinking water, too?

  • by religious freak ( 1005821 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:33PM (#22694994)
    Whenever I hear folks talking on the subject of bottled water vs. tap water, or water quality in general, I'm reminded of a study (which I'm too lazy to look up) conducted by a network news show a few years back. Turned out that bottled water was much less sanitary and clean than tap water.

    Why? Because tap water has teams of people objectively surveying its quality, unmotivated by profit. And bottled water has very little regulation, at least when measured against the regulation required around tap water.

    I, for one, drink either tap water or filtered tap water. These bottled water companies can take a hike, as far as I'm concerned.
    • by Xelios ( 822510 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:54PM (#22695178)
      When I hear folks talking on the subject of bottled water vs. tap water I mention Calgary, Alberta. Calgary has very good tap water taken from two rivers that run through it, and Coca-Cola has a large bottling plant there. Anyone want to guess where Dasani bottled water comes from? That's right, out of the taps in Calgary and Brampton, ON.

      I'm sure it doesn't supply all of the water Coca-Cola uses for Dasani, but it goes to show what a ripoff bottled water can be, and usually is.
      • by EastCoastSurfer ( 310758 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:27PM (#22695410)
        A lot of bottled water starts with muni tap water somewhere. That doesn't mean that it's the same thing as the tap water. There was a show once that showed where a certain companies bottled water came from. They started with muni tap, then it was filtered a ton of different ways to the most pure water you could get. At this point they actually had to add 'stuff' back because pure water actually has a bad taste.

        As far as Dasani goes they actually add sodium to the water, I'm guessing for taste.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by zippthorne ( 748122 )
        The water in my local county tastes terrible. I don't know why, perhaps it is simply that they aren't doing enough to filter it, or some asshole thinks that chlorine and dirt tastes good and is pumping up the levels. Actually, come to think of it, the water in my entire state tastes terrible, and a different kind of terrible in each of the various water districts.

        Now, what they probably should do is have no less than three, separate water mains. One really small one (gotta keep the flow velocity up or yo
      • by rasherbuyer ( 225625 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:30PM (#22695438)
        Check out what happened to Desani here in the UK []

        Needless to say it's not available here any more.

        If you can't be arsed to read the article it's basically:

        1. buy clean, uncontaminated tap water @0.06p litre
        2. add carcinogen
        3. sell for £1.80 litre
        4. profit!!!!
        5. get found out, "voluntarily" withdraw product

      • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @08:33PM (#22695866)
        If bottled water really was a scam it would be labelled "naive" backwards or something.
      • It's all local (Score:5, Informative)

        by daemonenwind ( 178848 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @08:50PM (#22695966)
        Coca-cola is bottled locally pretty much everywhere it's consumed.

        It is, after all, much easier to ship syrup than finished soda.

        All Coca-cola and Dasani is just local water, filtered and with additives (there's a mineral packet for making Dasani). The other major soft drink brands work the same way.
  • Hooray! (Score:5, Funny)

    by EggyToast ( 858951 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:34PM (#22695002) Homepage
    According to supporters of Homeopathy, we'll all become incredibly healthy thanks to this!
  • FFS... PPB? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:38PM (#22695030)
    And what will they worry about when we can measure parts per trillion?

  • Answer (Score:5, Informative)

    by zymano ( 581466 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:39PM (#22695036) []

    Also informing people that what goes down the toilet goes in your drinking water.
  • by n dot l ( 1099033 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:39PM (#22695038)
    From TFA:

    How do the drugs get into the water?

    People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.
    That's just ridiculous, when you think about the number of "X milligram of ingredient Y" pills people must be taking for detectable amounts to be showing up in drinking water after being diluted and filtered that many times. Is the average American really on that many drugs? Or are these water companies just really bad at keeping sewage out of people's taps?

    Hrm. I wonder how this compares to other developed nations...
    • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:50PM (#22695600)

      That's just ridiculous, when you think about the number of "X milligram of ingredient Y" pills people must be taking for detectable amounts to be showing up in drinking water after being diluted and filtered that many times.

      Women on birth control. Men on aspirin regimens. Antidepressants. Allergy medications. Over the counter painkillers like tylenol and ibuprofin.

      A huge amount of this stuff passes right through our bodies and into the septic system. What about all those bottles of medication that don't get used fully, or sit in your cabinet for those just-in-cases, and then expire? Most people flush the stuff or chuck it in the wastebasket.

      If you don't see the problem there, please go read Silent Spring, right now. Or go read about how PCBs made their way from Springfield, MA to the other side of the planet. Now think about how we tell pregnant women not to eat too much tuna, lest they get a dangerous dosage of mercury that could harm their child. Wake up, man.

  • False positives? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hektor_Troy ( 262592 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:40PM (#22695058)
    What kind of effect will this have on drug tests? Mythbusters and Brainiac both showed that poppy seeds from regular bread will trigger a positive drug test for opiates I think.

    With amphetamines etc. in the drinking water, what will that do for drug tests on otherwise clean people?
  • by edwardpickman ( 965122 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:41PM (#22695066)
    What drugs?

    What water supplies?

    And how can I buy some of the water?
  • A non-issue! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:43PM (#22695100)
    Even cyanide will not significantly affect you in proportions of a few parts per billion. You get a lot more than that from a handful of almonds. As for parts per trillion... just forget it. It isn't worth bothering about.

    If you want something to worry about, then start worrying about the antibiotics and growth hormones used in cattle and chickens. That is something real, with documented effects.
    • Re:A non-issue! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Cadallin ( 863437 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:21PM (#22695372)
      This is a definite problem. Our detection technologies are getting damn good. We can reliably detect single molecules in a lot of cases. So how do we deal with that? Sure it sounds good to say 0 parts per trillion of cyanide in drinking water, but what does it mean to accomplish it?

      And all of this is muddying the water (har har) and distracting us from other, possibly more pressing concerns like hormones and antibiotic content of industrially produced food. You make a bloody good point, and its something I've worried about for a good while, worried about it because there are peer reviewed studies indicating that it is real, and the effects it has are definitely detectable. Even anecdotally, its starting to concern many (very poorly educated) people in my community when they observe that their 10 and 12 year old daughters are in the advanced stages of puberty. That's becoming the norm, when a century ago it would have been all but unheard of. Even as an anecdotal observation, its causing a significant number of concerned parents.

      I wish we had a political candidate who was talking about these things. He or She would be buried by Corporate Agriculture for even mentioning it, but just the mention would bring it to the fore of the political consciousness. I think there are vast areas where such concerns and pledges would poll very well, and that gets politician's attention.

      • Truth (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @08:25PM (#22695834)
        I used to work for an engineering company that did a lot of work with "hazardous waste remediation". I was the computer guy, but the lab manager was a long-time friend of mine. He had a couple of interesting things to say about the business:

        (1) Now that we are reliably detecting much lower amounts of contaminants, people are demanding that we get rid of them even though they are insignificant. It's an emotional rather than a rational thing.

        Institutions that make their livelihood in this area -- particularly government bureaucracies like the EPA -- are very, very highly motivated to make these small things seem like real problems, because that is how they increase their power and budget.
  • by infonography ( 566403 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:47PM (#22695118) Homepage

    "There you go. I can taste it. Estrogen. Definitely estrogen. You take the Pill, flush it away, it enters the water cycle, feminizes the fish it goes all the way up into the sky, and then falls all the way back down on to me. Contraceptives in the rain. Love this planet. Still, at least I won't get pregnant. Never doing that again."
    ---Captain Jack Harkness.
                      TORCHWOOD 1X01: EVERYTHING CHANGES
  • POE (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @06:58PM (#22695202) Homepage
    Just goes to show that General Ripper was right.

    What's the biodegradability of this stuff? All we need is some modern version of DDT, working its way up the food chain.

    • we have DDT (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bussdriver ( 620565 )
      DDT is still allowed as well as illegally used in many places in the world. Do you know where your food comes from? In the USA, after banning DDT it was still for a long time in all the food being imported central/south america into the USA (don't know how much there is today and if I'd trust the official information on it.)

      There are other chemicals as well being used. Not to mention the over farming and genetic plants that may not be causing direct problems (yet) but may cause many indirect ones. We almo
  • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:02PM (#22695242)
    This is another perfect example about how new media can't understand technology.

        In this case, the technology is advanced chemical analysis machines that can detect trace amounts of drugs.
    In fact, it can detect trace amounts of whatever chemical it happens to be programmed to find if the trace amounts are present.
    The key word here is trace, as in a few hundred thousand or less Molecules.

        But give these jokers the opportunity to combine the words 'detect' and 'drugs', and they turn into self-righteous raving lunatics predicting the end of civilization and, by implication of the word 'drugs', millions of crazed niggers and hippies running amok, which is what the word 'drugs' means to the media fear mongers.

        Since the level of the trace amounts detected is so far below the effective medical dose to have any effect on human behavior or physiology, then why are they reporting it as if it were some kind of imminent problem?

        And, what, pray tell, is exactly so new about this situation? These trace amounts of (oh, horrors!) 'drugs' seem to have always been in the environment. What's new is not their presence, it's the ability to detect molecular levels of them.

        But the news media is presenting this as a warning that some terrible thing is about to happen. But it's not. This is a non-story being 'fear amplified' by the news media who are extremely limited in the real stories that they are allowed to cover by their corporate owners. So they just pander to vague fears.

        To hell with them. They are not professionals anymore, nor do they have anything resembling credibility left.

        And I am all so sick and tired of normal healthy productive people being fired from their jobs just because molecular trace amounts of 'drugs' turn up in the body fluids that they have been forced to surrender against the 4th and 5th ammendment of the US constitution that we are suspossed to live under in the USA.

        So you invented a machine that can 'prove' that someone smoked weed a month ago and therefore you can legally use this 'evidence' as an excuse to destroy their life? Well, fuck you and your machine. You are an asshole and a fascist and you are not doing your company, your people, or your country any favors by pretending otherwise.

        Have a nice day!
  • by Slackhead ( 953613 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:08PM (#22695266) Homepage
    Years ago most drinking water in towns was too bad to drink unless you lived in the country near to a good spring. Hence the invention of beer. My advice is stop drinking water and just go for beer, wine and spirits instead.
  • by ChilyWily ( 162187 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:15PM (#22695320) Homepage
    Sure, this is concerning to me because of how long all these chemicals survive and re-enter the water supply. Perhaps, this isn't even new News (fish on birth control -see here []), but what concerns me is what about the other stuff that we introduce into our food/water supplies that is at higher concentrations? e.g., bovine hormones.
  • by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:16PM (#22695328) Homepage Journal
    General Jack D. Ripper: Mandrake, do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk... ice cream. Ice cream, Mandrake, children's ice cream.

    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Lord, Jack.

    General Jack D. Ripper: You know when fluoridation first began?

    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: I... no, no. I don't, Jack.

    General Jack D. Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty-six. Nineteen forty-six, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works.

    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Uh, Jack, Jack, listen, tell me, tell me, Jack. When did you first... become... well, develop this theory?

    General Jack D. Ripper: Well, I, uh... I... I... first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love.

    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Hmm.

    General Jack D. Ripper: Yes, a uh, a profound sense of fatigue... a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I... I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence.

    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Hmm.

    General Jack D. Ripper: I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women uh... women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I, uh... I do not avoid women, Mandrake.

    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: No.

    General Jack D. Ripper: But I... I do deny them my essence.
  • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:17PM (#22695336) Journal
    To put 1 part per trillion into perspective...

    Imagine hiking up into the woods, and coming across a pristine lake. The lake is 6 meters deep, and 170 meters in diameter. Into this lake you toss a single, 100 milligram aspirin tablet.

    You have now polluted the lake with aspirin at 1 part per trillion.

    This is fear-mongering at its finest. Why, we have DRUGS and COMPOUNDS and CHEMICALS in our water! We simply MUST pass MORE LAWS and INCREASE TAXES to purify your drinking water! You could be getting LETHAL DOSES of DRUGS if we don't do SOMETHING! And for those of you living on private property, well we HAVE TO CONTROL what you can do on your property EVEN BEYOND what's done now, because you could be polluting the aquifer by simply dropping a single aspirin tablet on to your lawn!

    Never mind you'd have to drink a few million liters of water to even get 1 milligram of the drug...

    • by MikeURL ( 890801 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @08:36PM (#22695890) Journal
      They said parts per billion OR trillion. Would you be concerned if it were parts per million in 10 years? Right now we have no idea what the direction or magnitude of the problem is.

      If it is easy enough to set safe limits then let the government do that and require testing every 5 years. Then we can worry about something else or at least make decisions based on real info. NYC didn't participate so I have no idea what the magnitude or direction of the issue is for the tap water here.
  • Shit in, shit out (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jadedoto ( 1242580 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @07:27PM (#22695418)
    As was stated, it's not because the water companies are paid to drug us, just so many people are taking these drugs that when people defecate and urinate, guess what enters the main water supplies? Most current filtering systems weren't designed with drugs in such a concentration in mind. I remember reading an article a few months back about estrogen being so small a particle it is virtually impossible to trap, eventually to cause problems because not only do people take estrogen supplements (albeit to a lesser extent than testosterone), but women keep passing it through natural methods. Personally, I think 90% of these drugs people take are excessive. I'm perfectly healthy and don't take any drugs, except an occasional ibuprofen, whereas a friend of mine is perfectly healthy and is on constant drugs. People need to learn the concept of placebo again (counterintuitive, maybe), they need to change the way they think about medications and their lifestyles. All this medication is ridiculous and unnecessary in most cases. The same principal applies- put shit in, get shit out.
  • is to equip every home's septic system with an incinerator

    that's not happening

    luckily, this whole issue isn't really a problem. we all have radon in our homes too. that competes with any of these substances on a scale of worry. however, if the concentrations are low enough, the concentrations shouldn't worry you. this whole issue is nothing but sensationalism
  • There was a fairly conclusive study taken in Canada where the levels of a lake were maintained at a few parts per trillion of the chemicals in birth control to simulate the effects of urinating birth control. The effects were remarkable.

    While there were no effects of the synthetic estrogen on tadpole growth, development and sex ratios, we did see a low incidence of males with eggs in the treated lake. After estrogen additions, one of the more predominant species of zooplankton had lower proportions of males, and females from several species of zooplankton produced fewer eggs.

    The entire study is here: []

  • by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @09:24PM (#22696156)
    Give me a break! If I were to make a list of things in our water that one might choose to worry about, this would be at the very, very bottom?

    You really have to be desperate for something to worry about to get concerned about compounds that have already been extensively tested in human populations at astronomically higher doses and shown to be at least reasonably safe. Waving your hands about and talking about "long term" exposure does not make them any more scary. Almost all drug effects have thresholds--which is to say a concentration below which they do nothing

    It is hard to get effects at very low concentrations. Basically, to do anything to the body, a drug has to stick to something in the body for long enough to somehow damage it. To do so at low concentrations requires a lot of binding energy. Compounds with enough binding energy to produce effects at such low doses are very, very rare. The only real exception is mutagens--drugs that bind to DNA and damage it. In this case, there is at least a real, if tiny, chance that one molecule of the drug could hurt something in your body. But drugs that are able to do this at very low levels do it even more at high doses, producing damaging effects that lead to them being weeded out early in drug development.

    So if you insist on worrying about something, worry about all of those industrial chemicals in the water, because you can be sure that any molecule that is made or used for any purpose is in your water at some level. Most of those haven't been tested in big clinical trials at much higher doses in human populations. The chance that those molecules will hurt you is probably pretty small, also, but it's not quite as ridiculous as worrying about traces of pharmaceuticals.
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @09:51PM (#22696346) Journal
    I call FUD.

    Let's remember that our ancestors for millions of years have been drinking water with all sorts of NATURAL pollutants, of varying lethality: mud, feces, ungodly numbers of organisms, any soluble mineral that stream or pond happened to contact, etc, etc, etc.

    Umpteen thousands of generations later, while not perfect, I daresay that the resulting human (or any animal in 2008) digestive tract and immune system is pretty freaking robust and capable of isolating/filtering/rejecting pollutants and contaminants. Despite these pollutants being in our water systems for probably the last 50 years, people are living longer than ever. QED?

    Evolution for the win.

    Granted, of COURSE there are pollutants now (such as microtraces of drugs, etc) that we've never encountered before. But I'm pretty confident that my system will handle it.

    Either that, or kill me. If I handle it and pass those genes onto offspring, it's a win for the species.

    From the moment we stumbled upon the idea of fire, humans have accepted the tradeoffs of technology. We began to cook our food - with a resulting increase of some sort of carcinogen, if my weird vegan hippie friends are right - but what we got was a massive reduction in food poisoning, bacteriological issues, and parasites with eating uncooked meat. The tradeoff was worth it, IMO. We now have electricity, but there are countless effects on the environment and us due to the generation of same....aside from my hippie friends, nobody's advocating banning electricity.

    Considering the general life-improvements most of those drugs have given the human species overall, I think the tradeoff has been worth it.
  • Bullshit! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LadyLucky ( 546115 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:08AM (#22697382) Homepage
    Penn & Teller discuss bottled water []

    Great times, even if just to watch the first ever water sommelier in action.

"Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company." -- Mark Twain