Drugs in Waterways

States Worry about Drugs in Waterways


The Washington Post 6-24-2005


Washington – Academies, state officials and environmental advocates are starting to question whether massive amounts of discarded pharmaceuticals, which are often flushed down the drain, pose a threat to the nations aquatic life and possibly to people.

In waterways from the Potomac to the Brazos River In Texas, researchers have found fish laden with estrogen and antidepressants and many show evidence of major neurological or physiological changes.

No one has seen evidence of effects on human health, but a number are asking publicly why the federal government is not taking a more aggressive approach to what they see as a looming problem.

In October 2002, Main's Department of Environmental Protection asked federal scientists to analyze water samples to determine to what extent prescription drugs had seeped into the states waterways. Worried that discarded birth-control pills, antidepressants and other drugs could affect the states fishing industry and public health, the departments Ann Pistell hoped the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Northwest regional office could give her a speedy answer.

It was 2 & 1/2 years before she received a partial report identifying drugs in the water without a detailed explanation, – it came in the past week – she said she is still waiting for a full breakdown.

“We're sort of baffled and frustrated by the lack of a sample analysis,” said Pistell, an environmental specialist. “We see this as an emerging issue. The more we find out, the more concerned we are.”