US investigates impacts of drugs in drinking water

American environmental regulators are looking into the effects of low level residues of drugs in drinking water and working with healthcare professionals to see how levels might be reduced.

The Environmental Protection Agency has asked the National Academy of Science to advise on potential risks to human health and draw up a list prioritising the particular pharmaceuticals for which urgent action is needed.

It has also asked for information on how unused pharmaceuticals are disposed of from hospitals, care homes, hospices and vets.

The information will be used to shape future regulation and identify best practice when it comes to proper disposal.

“The agency’s work to increase industry stewardship and scientific understanding of pharmaceuticals in water continues,” said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA’s assistant administrator for water.

“By reaching out to the National Academy of Sciences and requesting information from the health care industry, EPA is taking important steps to enhance its efforts.”

The agency is also expanding its ongoing study of fish tissue to build up a national sample to determine whether residues from pharmaceuticals and cosmetics may be present in fish and waterways.

On top of this it is mapping the occurrence of cosmetics residues in sewage sludge and wastewater.

To facilitate these efforts, the agency has developed analytical methods capable of detecting various pharmaceuticals, steroids and hormones at very low levels.

EPA also is participating in an international effort with the World Health Organisation to study appropriate risk assessment methods for pharmaceuticals as environmental contaminants.

Sam Bond

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