How do pharmaceutical drugs get in drinking water? That's has been a common question since headlines like "AP Probe Finds Drugs in Drinking Water" appeared. In actuality there are many sources of the contamination.
First, there are human beings. You might think that when you take a medication, all of it is absorbed by the body. That is not the case. A great deal of the medications pass through the body without being metabolized and are excreted, along with other waste products. In order to fully answer the question of how do pharmaceutical drugs get in drinking water, you have to understand that at least some of the waters flowing out of your taps are "recycled" wastewaters. Wastewater treatment facilities need to be state of the art in order to remove all of the traces of medications and other synthetic and organic chemicals that are present in raw sewage.
Since the AP probe finds drugs in drinking water samples taken from around the country, obviously most wastewater treatment facilities are not "state-of-the-art". Practically all of the traces could be removed by combining reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration, but those expensive steps are not normally taken. If they remove the visible waste materials, they satisfy most of the demands made by the EPA. What is then considered "clean" is dumped into a local river, a bay or the ocean. Public drinking water treatment facilities "downstream" from the wastewater treatment plant take from the river or the bay and try to make it safe for human consumption.
In DC and Northern Virginia, for example, the public drinking supply comes from the Potomac River. It's a long river and upstream there are numerous wastewater treatment plants, so by the time it gets to DC, it's literally full of contaminants. It's not even safe to swim in. According to the AP, the probe finds drugs in drinking water, ready to be sent to DC residents, which are meant to treat mental illness and heart disease, as well as hormones found in birth control pills. In all, there were six different pharmaceuticals.
But, there's another answer to how do pharmaceutical drugs get in drinking water. People flush expired medications down the drain. I have even seen doctors recommend that this is a "good idea", in advice columns. Doesn't anyone care about the environment? How do you safely dispose of pharmaceuticals? Your local landfill should have an effective method or you might want to consider donating unused medications to charitable organizations that collect them and dispense them to poverty stricken nations around the world.
You see, it is not only people that are affected by this type of pollution. Some fish swimming in the Chesapeake Bay have mutated to the point that reproduction is impossible. You can help solve the problem. Of course none of the stories bearing the headline "probe finds drugs in drinking water" mention that fact. There are home purification products that trap the contaminants in an enclosed disposable filter. But, units like reverse osmosis remove the threat from your home, but waste water is created that contains concentrated contaminants and that goes right back into the environment.
You can buy a modern "environmentally friendly" system for the kitchen, the shower or the whole house and not only protect your family, but improve the environment, as well. You won't have to worry when another probe finds drugs in drinking water. In order to fully answer "how do pharmaceutical drugs get in drinking water", it is necessary to mention farm runoff and pet waste. They also contain traces of veterinary medications.