Are There Pharmaceuticals In Your Drinking Water?

When you call me about buying a water purification system the first thing I want to know is are pharmaceuticals in your drinking water. I always look at a local water quality report (aka consumer confidence report) to see what contaminants are in your water. It is my opinion that this is the only way to determine the water filtration system you need. Some unregulated contaminants can only be found by doing this.

Some contaminants, like chlorine, can be removed with a whole house filtration system, like my Urban Defender, but other contaminants, such as nitrates, radioactive metals, arsenic, fluoride and some other metals require a kitchen water filter also.

The first thing I look at when reviewing a water report is the source of the water. There are several reasons for this. First, if the water source is a river and if there are cities upstream of your location on that river then the water will contain numerous unregulated contaminants. That means the contaminants are in the water for sure but won’t be listed in the water quality report … because they are not currently regulated by USEPA.

One very concerning example of this are drugs or pharmaceuticals. Let me explain: when people take a pain killer, hormone, or other prescription drug or even when they drink coffee or use illegal drugs some portion of these pass through their bodies via their urine. They enter the sewage system and then the sewage treatment plant. But sewage treatment plants are designed to digest fecal material and kill bacteria, not to remove pharmaceuticals or other drugs.

If there are cities upstream of you then you can assume these unregulated contaminants are present in your water supply. One recent article in Environmental Health News further complicates matters in that they make the case that bacteria in the water may be increasing the amount of pharmaceuticals coming out of waste water treatment plants:

The current government view is that the level of drugs in drinking water are too low to affect human health, however a number of researchers have found that these scant levels (parts per trillion) do have an effect on human cells. Please note also the discussion in this article about the possible effects of low doses of a multitude of chemicals on humans. Basically, we don’t know and what we have is the chemical industry arguing that there’s no affect and some research scientists finding that there is an effect.

You can read more here: – link is broken

So when treated sewage is present in your water supply I recommend a high quality reverse osmosis system for your drinking water. This is particularly true if there are children, elderly, or people with immune issues present in the house. Whole house carbon filters may inadvertently reduce these in your water but they will not remove them.

Some carbon filters will remove some pharmaceuticals. But only reverse osmosis has been demonstrated to remove all of them: – (link is broken)

I’ve written about reverse osmosis and the issue of minerals in water vs unwanted contaminants here.

Once I determine whether these are present in the water I then go on to review the regulated contaminants in the water. You can learn more about that here.

And here is an August 1 2015 article on the topic that seems pretty comprehensive.

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About James McMahon

Studied ecology at the University of Illinois, mountain survival at Eastern Washing University, Deep Ecology at Naropa, River Ecology with The Nature Conservancy and Luna Leopold
This entry was posted in Exposure to Toxins, Healthy Living, Reverse Osmosis, Water Purification, Whole House Water Filter, Whole House Water Filtration and Purification and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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