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Pharmaceuticals Taint Water Supply

One Out of Six Face Problem
Following an Associated Press report that shows at least 46 million Americans may have pharmaceuticals in their water, water treatment workers need to educate themselves and consumers on possible solutions.
According to the AP report, almost one in six Americans may be affected by pharmaceuticals in their household water.  Since an initial AP report, positive tests were reported in 17 areas, including Reno, NV; Savannah, GA; Colorado Springs, CO; and Huntsville, AL. Results are pending in three other areas.
Water Quality Association (, a not-for-profit alliance of water treatment companies, has become a resource for public policy makers and others seeking information about the issue.  WQA offers an online fact sheet with answers to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water. WQA has also joined a task force to develop independent testing standards that will be able to tell consumers what devices are successful at removing many of these newly discovered contaminants.
Best Way to Go: In-Home Filtration
Filtering systems in the home provide the highest technology available for treatment of drinking water, according to Joseph Harrison, technical director of WQA.  Less than two percent of all water consumed is ingested by humans, making these "point-of-use- systems the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
While utilities are required to meet safety standards set by the U.S. EPA, home filtering systems act as a final contaminant barrier and can further purify water for drinking, Harrison said.  While specific product performance standards have not yet been developed for pharmaceuticals, many point-of-use technologies have proven effective for some of these emerging contaminants.
The most recent test results, added to data disclosed by communities and water utilities for the AP report, produce the new total of Americans known to be exposed to drinking water that contains trace levels of pharmaceutical compounds. Boston, Phoenix and Seattle found no detections of pharmaceuticals in their drinking water supplies, according to AP.  Cities that reported finding pharmaceuticals in their supplies detected substances similar to those found in other cities" supplies. One such substance is the anti-convulsant carbamazepine.
According to AP, the overwhelming majority of US cities have not tested drinking water for pharmaceuticals.  One of them, New York City, maintains that testing "is not warranted at this time.-
Independent surveying conducted for WQA has shown a high level of consumer concern. A scientific survey conducted for WQA found that 45 percent of respondents feel very concerned and 23 percent somewhat concerned about pharmaceuticals in their water. More than 80 percent were aware of news reports on the issue.
However, the AP reported in May that municipalities rarely inform their residents when pharmaceuticals are found in drinking water.

By Chris Navarro
Get Water Treatment Jobs, Contributing Editor

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