10 March 2008

Somebody Put Something in My Drink

There's an AP investigative report out today detailing the wide variety of pharmaceuticals to be found in the American water supply -- we're talking about very very small concentrations, which seem to be harmless in the short term, but there's some reasonable concern about what consequences we might see in a decade or two from constant, low-level exposure to antibiotics, antidepressants, sex hormones and heart meds (among others).

One interesting thing about this: the AP article says these drugs are finding their way into the water after being incompletely metabolized by patients, but there's no mention of the drugs being dumped in, full-strength, by health care facilities. Speaking from my own experience, I can say that a single medium-sized nursing facility might dispose of thousands of pills a month from expired or discontinued prescriptions by flushing them down the toilet. Hospitals and pharmacies, who knows? What's frustrating about this, aside from issues of water contamination, is that there's no mechanism in place to convert these wasted meds into meds for developing-world medical projects. I assume there are several sophisticated political and economic explanations for this, but seriously, dumping wasted drugs into our own water supply seems nearly as smart as subsidizing farmers to not grow corn (which would go bad, because it can't be shipped off to staving countries, for similar reasons).

HT: Sand in the Gears