There’s a good chance it is, but the government remains silent. Action Alert!
A recent study by the US Geological Survey (USGS) has found that a startling number of American streams carry traces of drugs. The researchers sampled 59 small streams in the Southeast for 108 different pharmaceutical compounds, and one or more chemicals were detected in every sampled stream. Steams tested positive for six chemicals on average.
Among the most common drugs found in the streams were acetaminophen (Tylenol), lidocaine (a pain reliever), tramadol (an opioid pain reliever), fexofenadine (an antihistamine found in Mucinex and Allegra, among others), and metformin (a type 2 diabetes drug).
The contamination of our environment with pharmaceuticals is increasingly problematic. Not only are they in our drinking water, they’re in our food supply as well.
Biosolids—a euphemism for human waste—are being pushed on unsuspecting farmers by local or state governments as a cheap fertilizer alternative, even though they can be riddled with drugs and personal care products and are rarely if ever tested for these substances. And the pharmaceuticals found in biosolids can wreak havoc on animal and plant life. According to the report:
- Antibiotics can affect the microbial content of streams, adversely affecting the base of the food web and increasing antibiotic resistance.
- Antihistamines can affect the neurotransmitters of aquatic insects.
- Metformin, the diabetes drug, can affect the reproductive health of fish.
Biosolids and the chemicals found in them can have other deleterious effects:
- Research shows that the animal and human drugs typically found in biosolids may, even at very low levels, interfere with important hormones that help plants defend themselves against predators and diseases.
- At higher concentrations, even the vegetables themselves are harmed by the drugs when biosolids are used in fertilizer. Zucchini plants that were exposed to pharmaceutical drugs developed leaves with burnt edges and white spots, as well as stunted roots. Exposure also impaired the plants’ ability to perform photosynthesis, the process by which plants produce energy from sunlight.
One California researcher is working on a creative solution to this problem by studying how to use composting to get rid of pharmaceuticals. We hope he succeeds, because the government’s response has been to pretend the problem does not exist. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only regulates pathogens and heavy metals in biosolids, not pharmaceuticals. The agency seems to be content to “study” the problem indefinitely rather than act. Government officials do not want to get on the wrong side of Big Pharma, much less admit what they are doing to our drinking water and farm products.
Action Alert! Write to the EPA and urge them to limit the amount of pharmaceutical drugs and personal care products that are permitted in biosolids. Please send your message immediately.