Posted by: soapchix | March 11, 2008

Drugs in Our Drinking Water?

As The Associated Press documented in a five-month investigation, drinking water provided to at least 41 million people living in 24 major metropolitan areas has tested positive for trace amounts of pharmaceuticals. When water providers find pharmaceuticals in drinking water, they rarely tell the public. When researchers make the same discoveries, they usually don’t identify the cities involved.

Why aren’t we being informed? Because apparently, we the public are prone to freaking out and being unreasonable.

Philadelphia Water Department spokeswoman Laura Copeland said, “It would be irresponsible to communicate to the public about this issue, as doing so would only generate questions that scientific research has not yet answered. We don’t want to create the perception where people would be alarmed.”

(Translation: “You want the truth? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”)

So, why are we talking about pharmaceuticals in drinking and runoff water? Because a large portion of contaminants in this water is coming from cosmetics and personal care products like soap, shampoo, body wash, etc. As we’ve written before (here and here) currently the FDA does not regulate the use of phthalates and BPA’s in cosmetic products, even though there is a causal connection showing these chemicals are endocrine disruptors.

Some quotes:


Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), are groups of emerging drinking water contaminants that have been detected in waters around the world.


So, what is the true risk assessment of pharmaceuticals and the like in water? Do they present a health threat to humans and/or wildlife exposed? The truth is, no one knows. Some scientists believe the exposure levels are so low theyメre ineffective. Others are concerned about long-term, chronic and combined exposures to agents designed to cause a physiological effect in humans. Many more scientists agree we should be concerned about aquatic ecosystems where sperm levels and spawning patterns in aquatic organisms have been clearly altered in environments heavily polluted with a class of hormone-altering pharmaceuticals known as endocrine disrupters.


Along with pharmaceuticals, personal care products also are showing up in water. Generally these chemicals are the active ingredients or preservatives in cosmetics, toiletries or fragrances…Researchers Christian G. Daughton and Thomas A. Ternes reported in the December issue of “Environmental Health Perspectives” that the amount of pharmaceuticals and personal care products entering the environment annually is about equal to the amount of pesticides used each year.

Soapchix Ash experienced this back when she worked cleaning up toxic environments for the government. This was BK (before kids), so a good 8 years ago, and even then she was finding phthalates in the groundwater of very remote places. She is the force behind educating me about these things, and the reason why our Simply Soaps and Wild Child Soaps are chemical, phthalate, and paraben free. (We’re working on changing over our Wildly and Heavenly Soaps, too!)

Ash and I have a more optimistic view of the average public than Laura Copeland or the entire EPA has. Now that there are so many reports indicating that our chemical exposure is increasing exponentially and from places that have been previously unknown (and unregulated), we believe that responsible people will demand accountability and change. We’ve read some great blogs from moms and dads who understand that consumerism comes with a price, and have a great influence on funneling other conscientious buyers towards natural, responsible products. We have networked with people who are dedicated to creating a natural, responsible product. And we are proud to be one of those companies.

Our focus is on getting endocrine disruptors like phthalates, BPA’s, parabens, and other chemicals out of the cosmetic industry by first getting them out of our products. We hope the Senate Hearings that are being demanded by State Representatives will highlight many of our concerns and start the ball rolling with the FDA, EPA, and catch our laws up with those in the EU. In the meantime, we’ll keep making our soap and bath products, happy that the only thing rinsing down the drain is dirt…not endocrine disruptors and other chemicals making their way into our drinking water.

Articles Quoted:
Popular Science: “Tainted Tap Wate r”
Popular Science: “Your Sewer On Drugs”
USA Today: “Cities rarely release water test results”
WCP Online: “Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water Supply”



  1. One quick thing: listening to the news on the radio this morning, I heard the announcer talk about this story. The quote that stood out was from a Colorado biologist that said, “we aren’t seeing much effect (of the contaminated water) except for some fish that are changing genders.”

    Well, hey…a few transgendered fish..that can’t be bad!

  2. There is something you can do about all the gross contaminates that are in our tap water.

    There are a few filters on the market that are certified for the removal of synthetic organic chemicals (SOCs) and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). Most prescription and over the counter drugs fall under those catagories. Check them out

    I hope you find this information useful. Until there’s some standard set for the removal of prescription and OTC drugs I guess it’s up to us to do it on an individual basis.

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