Monday, March 10, 2008

I'm switching to underground glacier water

This article on the AP today about pharmaceuticals leaching into our water is pretty horrifying to me. Basically they have found that people take lots of drugs and some parts of those drugs are absorbed by the body and the rest pass through the body as waste and are flushed down the toilet and into our sewer system. The water treatment plants don't treat the water to remove drugs and so they stay in the system. They even think that chlorine added to the water to treat it might make the drugs even more toxic. What made me really mad was that they indicated that they don't generally release the results of tests on the water for drugs because the public might be "unduly alarmed". But the article also says:

And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies — which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public — have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.

So, yeah, I am alarmed, but I think I am duly alarmed. They have found sex hormones, anitbiotics, epilepsy medication, heart medications, mood stabalizing meds, cholesterol medications...

Sixty-three pharmaceuticals or byproducts were found in the city's [Philadelphia] watersheds.

But wait, there's more. Not only are drugs from people in the drinking water, so are all the drugs they give to factory farmed animals.

Human waste isn't the only source of contamination. Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals.

Water sampled downstream of a Nebraska feedlot had steroid levels four times as high as the water taken upstream. Male fathead minnows living in that downstream area had low testosterone levels and small heads.

Other veterinary drugs also play a role. Pets are now treated for arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and even obesity — sometimes with the same drugs as humans. The inflation-adjusted value of veterinary drugs rose by 8 percent, to $5.2 billion, over the past five years, according to an analysis of data from the Animal Health Institute.

Filtered water and well water are also not safe. Well water is evidently contaminated by chemicals seeping into the ground from septic tanks. This whole thing makes me mad because I try really hard to not put things into my body that it doesn't need. I don't even take advil unless I am in SEVERE pain. So, what's a girl to do?? I think I'll be switching to underground glacier water.


  1. Hmmm I've always felt pretty ok about filtering my tap water...but bah. I'm not sure what more I, as an extremely poor grad student who rents an apartment can do!

    In the past I've even advocated for tap water.... with a filter. We use a countertop filter.

    Chicago didn't test, either. I shudder to think what they'd find if they did. The water here is so chloriney that I can't drink it unfiltered.

    And as I think you know, I do take medications myself and am therefore part of the problem of input into the water supply.

    My parents had their well water tested though (for everything the water testers could possibly test for) and it came up incredibly high quality.

  2. unfortunately, you also have to think about the BPA in any plastic water bottles you might buy.

    it's so frustrating when you're just trying to be in control of what goes into your body. we can't very well stop drinking water!

  3. I wonder if the Park City Ice water bottles (GlacierPak) have the same problem. They invented a bottle that is supposed to be much better for the environment. I don't know if it is better for people too:

  4. Seems like well water would have to be better than the sewer system water.

  5. hmmm. . .i hope so! at the very least they're minimizing the environmental impact. of course, if i have it shipped to me than i'm not being very nice to the environment. with so many things these days you just have to do the best you can.

  6. I think you need to keep this in perspective though. Much of the world has a lot worse problems with their water supply than extremely low levels of residual pharmaceuticals. For instance, see or Personally, I'm grateful to live someplace where I don't have to worry about contracting a water-related disease from drinking tap water.

  7. Well sure, that's obvious. But just because you don't want to contract distentary from your water, doesn't mean that you want to take hormones or mood elevation drugs when you don't need them and don't know the effects on your body.

  8. Hi Kristin. I think the issue is that you're not exerting any energy towards solving the supposed problem. If you believe tap water is unhealthy, well, you have the luxury of buying glacier water. But where does that leave everyone else who can't afford to do so?

    You might say -- not my problem, and in the meantime, I'll drink the bottled stuff. But by contributing to the bottled water industry, you aren't merely avoiding that problem. You are implicitly supporting the commercialization/privatization of water, which is a highly disturbing recent phenomenon.

    To quote a NYT article on the subject, "Tap water may now be the equal of bottled water, but that could change. The more the wealthy opt out of drinking tap water, the less political support there will be for investing in maintaining America’s public water supply. That would be a serious loss. Access to cheap, clean water is basic to the nation’s health."

    This is all on top of the much more immediate impact of bottled water on the environment. Lest you think recycling is the answer, recycling does nothing to reclaim the energy spent towards shipping the water, powering the factories used to bottle it, etc., etc.

    All this is moot if the bottom line is that you (1) believe that tap water is personally harmful, and (2) believe that that harm outweighs the various broader harms. But that's the decision you have to make, as I see it.

  9. aww- you guys must miss me. :)

    You have a good point, i definitely don't want to support the commercialization of water. I try not to be too consumerist. I also hate buying bottled water and almost never do, so you are right that it is a tough choice. Not sure I have the answers yet myself.

    The park city glacier water looked like an interesting option because it will be local for me soon, and because they use more enviromentally friendly packaging. Not sure if I'll really buy it in lieu of tap water.

    Mostly I would just like to see the problem fixed in general and would like companies/government to be forthcoming about these things instead of hiding them to choose what's best for me instead of allowing me to make that decision.

    The point about the wealthy buying bottled water affecting people who cannot afford to is something I hadn't considered (not sure I believe that would really happen).

  10. Kristin,
    Just in case you don't check back on my blog - I was trapped, too! We spent the night in a "refugee camp" in Rawlins. Now we're in Rock Springs luxuriating in a hotel. I can't believe there was someone I "know" trapped with us! That was really awful. Glad you're ok!

  11. We were lucky in that we had already booked a room for Sunday night in advance in Laramie since we are travelling with cats. Then when we got through Monday's traffic jam (we were near the front) we hightailed it out of Wyoming and actually made it to Park City around 10 pm.

    We definitely felt lucky to have a bed Sunday night and to get out of Wyoming on Monday.