Residues of medicines turning up in waters
By Cornelia Dean
The New York Times
Residues of birth control pills, antidepressants, painkillers, shampoos and a host of other compounds are finding their way into the nation's waterways, and they have public health and environmental officials in a regulatory quandary.
On the one hand, there is no evidence that the traces of the chemicals found so far are harmful to human beings. On the other hand, it would seem cavalier to ignore them.
The pharmaceutical and personal care products, PPCPs, are being flushed into the nation's rivers from sewage treatment plants or leaching into groundwater from septic systems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, researchers have found these substances, called "emerging contaminants," almost everywhere they have looked for them.
Most experts say their discovery reflects better sensing technology as much as anything else. Still, as Hal Zenick of the agency's office of research and development put it in an e-mail message, "there is uncertainty as to the risk to humans." In part, that is because the extent and consequences of human exp