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San Diego citizens forced to drink their own pharmaceutical pollution through emergency sewage recycling program


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(NaturalNews) The drought in California has unfortunately become a way of life for the majority of its residents, with many of them resorting to showering in portable stalls located in parking lots and getting on board with drinking recycled sewage water.

The latter specifically pertains to San Diego, where a plan has already been put in place to recycle 15 million gallons by 2023 and 83 million gallons daily by 2035. While surveys have shown that three out of four residents are in favor of the plan saying that it's beneficial for the drying state, some say it ranks high on the gross scale, conjuring up bathroom behaviors and all the related visuals and odors.(1)

For those leery of the plan, it turns out that there's another thought to add to the list of worry: pharmaceutical pollution.

Quite simply, this issue takes into consideration the fact that the pharmaceuticals that people ingest are ultimately released in the urine stream. Part two to that is the fact that some of it isn't released via urine but comes from individuals opting to flush drugs down the toilet. Either way, they're making it into sewage plants.

Drinking recycled sewage water may mean ingesting prescription chemicals

The question, therefore, becomes a health matter. Are San Diego residents, where the sewage will be recycled for drinking water, harming their health by consuming a resource that likely harbors pharmaceutical pollution from commonly used drugs?

Consider the fact that several studies have already found active pharmaceuticals in drinking water throughout the United States. American Water Works Association Research Foundation and the WateReuse Foundation tested 19 drinking water treatment plants that provide water to more than 28 million Americans. They discovered metabolites and pharmaceuticals present in ALL tested areas. In a separate analysis, an Environmental Protection Agency-funded review found there to be 54 active pharmaceutical ingredients and 10 metabolites in treated drinking water.(2)

Throughout the United States, it's estimated that 7 out of 10 people take at least one prescription drug, mainly for management of a chronic condition. In fact, about 20% are on at least five prescription medications, and over half of Americans ingest two.(3)

Also this is what's reported; sadly, we all know that abuse of drugs exists, a problem that likely increases these statistics. A report from the San Diego Prescription drug abuse task force that outlines drug overuse deaths, for example, shows that the death rate from drugs is 12.4 per 100,000 people, or 9% of the entire state. That same report also notes that, in California, about 6.2 kg of pain killers are used per 10,000 people, which they note is enough to "medicate every single American round the clock for a month."(4)

Specifically, the most common pharmaceutical chemicals found in drinking water are those related to antibiotics and hormones. In essence, a slew of drugs, ranging from anti-inflammatories, antidepressants and antihistamines to antibiotics (including for veterinary use) and nicotine, creates pharmaceutical pollution that makes its way to drinking water.(2)

Efforts to reduce pharmaceutical pollution in drinking water: will they really work?

To help prevent the problem, many areas have programs in which people return unused medications to proper authorities so they can be disposed of safely. While California has been one of five US states to participate in such an effort, unfortunately it's been shown that such involvement only transpired once and that was in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006.(2)

Others advocate urging medical professionals to consider what Christian Daughton of the US Environmental Protection Agency calls "eco-directed sustainable prescribing (EDSP)." EDSP is a twofold process that involves reducing the dosage and frequency of prescriptions and, secondly, taking into consideration the ways the drug works in the body and whether or not its excretion impacts environment. Mainly, the way a drug is metabolized -- which depends on factors such as a person's genes and drug solubility -- indicates whether or not the drug remains in its active form in the urine stream.(5)

Head of Glasgow Caledonian University's branch of the noPILLS research project, Ole Pahl, is on board with such an idea, yet notes that it's not without complexities. "The science behind excretion profiling is relatively straightforward, and it could be considered -- alongside toxicity, bioaccumulation potential and environmental persistence," he said. "But the social aspects, are, I feel, very complex."(5)

When greed and paybacks are often at the heart of Big Pharma, none of us have to be rocket scientists to know that the likelihood of medical professionals giving consideration to, much less cutting back on, prescriptions is highly unlikely.

Sources for this article include:

(1) http://www.dailymail.co.uk

(2) http://www.cbsnews.com

(3) http://www.huffingtonpost.com

(4) http://www.sandiegocounty.gov[PDF]

(5) http://www.theguardian.com

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