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Originally published December 4 2013

Sewage flowing into the Great Lakes has only half of drugs and chemicals removed

by L.J. Devon, Staff Writer

(NaturalNews) An International Joint Commission report, conducted by scientists from both the US and Canada, finds that the Great Lakes region is being severely over-contaminated with chemicals and prescription drugs that are bypassing treatment methods at sewage treatment plants.

In fact, the commission found that about half of all prescription drug and other chemical contaminants remain in sewage waste after it is treated. The situation is so dire that the commission is calling out for new water treatment methods, warning residents of the area of "chemicals of emerging concern" that may affect the health of both aquatic life and humans in negative ways.

The Great Lakes - becoming a cocktail of pharmaceutical and chemical compounds

Antonette Arvai, physical scientist of the International Joint Commission, says it is hard to tell how one contaminate may affect the human body, let alone a whole mix of chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The compounds, which can't be seen, are showing up in mixed proportions at parts per billion or parts per trillion. As compounds combine randomly and in different proportions, water from the Great Lakes is becoming a wicked cocktail travesty of science.

According to the commission, 4.8 billion gallons of waste water is treated and discharged into the Great Lakes basin every day. All the intermingling, parts per billion of untreated waste chemicals add up. The Great Lakes are basically becoming a pharmaceutical stew, a melting pot of side effects waiting to be drunk.

The redesign of more than 1,400 waste water treatment plants in the Great Lakes region may be a tall task, but international commission leaders believe that more effective treatment methods are absolutely necessary for the future health of the environment and the people.

After reviewing 10 years of data from treatment plants worldwide, the commission's scientists studied the efficiency of current treatment methods in their ability to eliminate 42 of the dangerous compounds that are showing up at high levels in the Great Lake region.

High levels of untreated chemicals and drugs in lake water raise questions

Here is a list of some of the chemicals and pharmaceuticals that are accumulating and growing pervasive in the Great Lakes region.

• A couple of antibiotics drugs and commercial antibacterial triclosan - Triclosan, the antibacterial compound found in commercial soaps, toothpastes and other body care products is a known toxin to algae and has been shown to be a hormone disruptor to fish. How might triclosan and other antibiotics spawn the creation of dangerous and evolved bacteria strains?

Diana Aga, chemistry professor and chemical researcher of the Great Lakes region is concerned about consistent antibiotic levels showing up in treated waste water.

"Even at low levels you don't want to have people ingest antibiotics regularly because it will promote resistance," she said.

An herbicide - How might this destroy nutritional algae and other beneficial plants which are needed for a thriving ecosystem?

Acetaminophen and an anti-inflammatory drug called diclofenac. Dicolfenac accumulates in fish. How might continual dosing through water sources accumulate in the cells of humans and tax the liver over time?

An estrogen, estriol - How might hormones in the water affect mating patterns in wildlife and in humans?

An anti-seizure drug - How might drugs like these, with side effects including suicidal thoughts and behaviors, effect people over time?

Everyone should begin treating their own water

Commission board member and scientist for the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center Michael Murray believes that it's important to not place blame solely on the waste water treatment plants. "They weren't designed to handle these types of chemicals," Murray said.

As waste water treatment plants fail to keep up with high levels of pharmaceuticals and chemical compounds, obtaining clean water will become the responsibility of the individual family.

Since municipal water sources are often contaminated further with fluoride, chlorine and other chemicals, it is necessary for families to filter their own water. Gravity-fed activated charcoal filtration devices are becoming more popular for their ability to eliminate pharmaceuticals and herbicides from tap water. Other filters that use reverse osmosis help eliminate fluoride and arsenic. Some water filtration systems utilize both methods to free water of practically all contaminates.

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