The Pharma Challenge. What Can We Do About It?

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The existence of pharmaceuticals in the environment and the water supply in small amounts (nanograms to low micrograms per gallon) has been widely discussed and published over the past decade. The increase in detection is primarily attributable to the advances in analytical techniques and instrumentation.

Though the chemical and drug companies denounce any danger from exposure to these low concentration drug residues in water, science and common sense says otherwise. Studies show drug residue cocktails do cause harm. A 2006 study conducted by University of Insubria in Italy simulated water that was drug-polluted by creating a low-level concoction of various drug residues and testing it on embryonic cells. The scientists discovered that, even at low doses, the drug residues stopped cells from reproducing. Although current water contamination levels are measured and researched in parts per million or parts per billion, there is not currently a way to understand just how much exposure citizens experience what those effects are. People regularly drink contaminated water, shower in contaminated water and cook with contaminated water; this suggests that the exposure to contaminants could be huge.

How Do We Fix This Problem? 
Conventional wastewater treatment facilities typically utilize activated sludge processes or other forms of biological treatment such as biofiltration. These methods have demonstrated varying removal rates for pharmaceuticals, but are usually not very effective. There are newer and more advanced technologies that are being deployed as a more suitable alternative than AS. Newer technologies have proven more effective and better at removing pharmaceuticals than ever before. One such technology developed by Active Water Solutions called the DynaFlow I has proven itself to be one of the most cost effective solutions in helping to remove pharmaceuticals from the water supply.

In the bigger picture, the EPA has taken a four-pronged approach that involves public education, closer monitoring of water supplies, partnering with health care institutions and agricultural entities to reduce waste. New regulation will most certainly be on the radar of most political heads shortly. As a first step toward possible regulation, the EPA has added ten pharmaceutical compounds, one antibiotic and nine hormones, to its watch list of potentially harmful contaminants that warrant greater investigation.

Many people believe that removing pharmaceuticals by boiling water is an effective treatment of their water, this is not the reality of how to treat pharma contaminated water sources. Experts have proven that boiling water to remove drug residue is not a valid option. If you think bottled water is a way to get away from the low levels of drugs found in some public water supplies, you would be mistaken. According to an NRDC report, Twenty-five percent of bottled water comes from the tap. Bottled water labels are regulated by the FDA, to help consumers know what is inside but, if bottled water companies use water from municipal sources and do not treat it further to purify it, then it is useless to use them as a way to get rid of pharmaceuticals. 

There is a long road to travel before we solve this major issue of the 21st century. We have only begun to realize the implications of pharma in our water streams. Recognizing and identifying that it's an important discussion is the first step in addressing this complex and challenging problem that has global implications. 

Interested in learning more about advanced technologies that can help remove pharmaceuticals from your water streams. Contact us today.