US food crops absorb toxic pharmaceuticals and personal care products from treated wastewater

Friday, August 13, 2010 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: food crops, toxins, health news

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(NaturalNews) Several major reports have come out in recent years about the dangers of pharmaceutical drug residues being found in the nation's water supplies. But a new study has shown that major American food crops like soybeans are also absorbing these chemicals, and others, from the treated wastewater that farmers are applying to them.

It is common practice for large-scale farm operations to dump billions of gallons of treated sewage and other recycled water on crops to help fertilize them. But this semi-treated water still contains chemical components from drugs, creams, lotions, shampoos and other consumer products, all of which end up in the soil.

A research team from the University of Toledo in Ohio decided to test whether or not major U.S. food crops were capable of absorbing these chemicals in real-life agricultural conditions, so they performed an experiment on soybeans, the second most-widely grown crop in the U.S.

After giving the plants water tainted with three pharmaceutical components and two antimicrobial compounds from personal care products, the team observed that one of the pharmaceutical drugs and both antimicrobial compounds concentrated heavily in the plants' roots, eventually making their way into the stems and leaves. The other two chemicals absorbed somewhat, but not as much as the others.

"The first thing you have to consider with human exposure [to chemicals] through agriculture is whether it's even possible," explained Chad Kinney, an environmental chemist from Colorado State University in Pueblo. "That's what was answered by this study."

According to Chenxi Wu, the study lead, these chemicals could "accumulate through the food chain, and eventually end up in human consumers."

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