Drugmakers, water pollution, and another 'don't ask, don't tell' policy
The U.S. federal government has "consistently" overlooked massive amounts of waterway contamination stemming from 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals legally released into waterways, the Associated Press reported today.
According to the news agency's investigation, government and industry officials don't know how many pharmaceutical ingredients – like lithium and nitroglycerin – are released into lakes and rivers that feed into drinking water, because they don't track those chemicals as drugs.
But the AP found that 22 pharmaceutical compounds do show up in EPA and Food and Drug Administration records. Drugmakers and federal regulators both say that the manufacturing of these kinds of chemicals doesn't impact water quality, but according to the story...
...researchers say the lack of required testing amounts to a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy about whether drugmakers are contributing to water pollution.
"It doesn't pass the straight-face test to say pharmaceutical manufacturers are not emitting any of the compounds they're creating," said Kyla Bennett, who spent 10 years as an EPA enforcement officer before becoming an ecologist and environmental attorney.
Pilot studies in the U.S. and abroad are now confirming those doubts.
Last year, the AP reported that trace amounts of a wide range of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in American drinking water supplies. Including recent findings in Dallas, and Maryland's Prince George's and Montgomery counties, pharmaceuticals have been detected in the drinking water of at least 51 million Americans.
Most cities and water providers still do not test. Some scientists say that wherever researchers look, they will find pharma-tainted water.