Apr 1 2008 UPDATE The state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Geological Survey will test Pittsburgh's water supply for the presence of pharmaceuticals and hormone contaminants.
Testing is set to begin this summer. Researchers plan to sample 27 streams, rivers, and lakes in Pennsylvania, including the Allegheny River, which provides drinking water to Pittsburgh residents. The testing will be done over the course of three years.
An investigation conducted by the Associated Press (AP) has revealed that millions of Americans unknowingly consume an array of drugs in their drinking water. Pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, and sex hormones are present in the water supplies of at least 41 million people nationwide.
The AP’s discovery that trace amounts of drugs are present in the water supply is heightening worry among scientists that the contamination will lead to long-term consequences in human health. Recent laboratory research has shown that small amounts of medication affect human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells, and human breast cancer cells. Additionally, research has shown that pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife around the world.
Medication not absorbed by the human body is released in waste and enters the water treatment process. The Environmental Protection Agency says that there are currently no sewage treatment systems specifically designed to remove pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, the federal government does not require any testing and has not set safety limits for drugs in drinking water.