Here's a story that is far more important than another political sex scandal but did you hear about it on the evening news..
Water Probe Prompts Senate Hearings
By MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer
Two veteran U.S. senators said Monday they plan to hold hearings in response to an Associated Press investigation into the presence of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.
Also, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., has asked the EPA to establish a national task force to investigate the issue and make recommendations to Congress on anylegislative actions needed. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, chairman of the Transportation, Safety, Infrastructure Security and Water Quality Subcommittee, said the oversight hearings would likely be held in April.
Boxer, D-Calif., said she was "alarmed at the news" that pharmaceuticals are turning up in the nation's drinking water, while Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat who said he was "deeply concerned" by the AP findings, both represent states where pharmaceuticals had been detected in drinking water supplies, but not disclosed to the public.
"I call on the EPA to take whatever steps are necessary to keep our communities safe," said Boxer in a statement.
Added Lautenberg, whose subcommittee has jurisdiction over drinking water issues: "Our families deserve water that is clean and safe. Our hearing will examine these problems and help ensure the EPA and Congress take the steps necessary to protect our residents and clean up our water supply."
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Pharmaceuticals in the water supply is not a new story. The CBC News broke this story two years ago.
Pill-Popping Society Fouling Our Water, Official Says
Published on Friday, March 24, 2006 by CBC News / Canada
Birth control pills, cancer drugs and a host of other pharmaceuticals that people flush down the drain every day are showing up in our drinking water, says Gord Miller, Ontario's environmental commissioner.
"We need to do a better job of keeping drugs out of lakes, rivers and drinking water," Miller told the Kitchener-Waterloo Record on Wednesday.
Although the drugs are not considered a threat to human health, there is evidence that they can harm wildlife.
"There is no health hazard in drinking water now that has been detected in Canada, but we have detected substances in drinking water," he said, adding that the problem is likely to get worse rather than better as the population grows.
"Our society loves to pop pills," Miller said. "If you were designing the perfect pollutant it would probably look like a pill."
Miller was sworn in as environmental commissioner six years ago to oversee the implementation of Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights. He is an independent officer of Queen's Park, where he reports on government compliance with environmental rules.
In his last annual report, Miller said contraceptives, painkillers, antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs and blood-pressure drugs are showing up in lakes and rivers, while anti-inflammatory and anti-cholesterol drugs and antidepressants are ending up in drinking water.
Experiments in northern Ontario have shown that exposure to these waste drugs has led to the feminization of male fish, delayed reproduction in female fish and damage to kidneys and livers of both sexes, the report said.
Independent studies by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States and by environmental bodies in England have turned up similar evidence.
Miller said pharmaceuticals are getting into drinking water in several ways. Unused drugs are thrown into domestic garbage, which end up in landfill sites and eventually into the groundwater.
Drugs are taken orally and flushed down toilets as human excrement. And unused drugs are washed down the sink or flushed down the toilet directly into domestic sewers.
Many drugs pass right through the sewage and water treatment plants, back into the drinking water. "Sewage treatment plants aren't designed to remove them," Miller said.
Copyright © CBC 2006
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