Study finds Bay Area water contaminated

March 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A new investigation shows millions of Americans are drinking tap water contaminated by pharmaceutical drugs. The study conducted by the Associated Press looked at the water supply in 24 major metropolitan areas, including ours. Three counties had trace amounts of ibuprofen pain medication and other drugs.

The Santa Clara Water District has already tested their water for pharmaceuticals.

"We found minute detections of ibuprofen and anticonvulsants and also anti- inflammatories," says Susan Suravo of the Santa Clara Valley Water Distric.

A new study by the Associated Press found that water districts like Santa Clara, San Francisco, and Contra Costa counties had minute amounts of pharmaceuticals' in their water. Associated Press says that pills and other medications have found their way into the watersheds, reservoirs, and drinking water of at least 24 metropolitan areas. Susan Siravo says that even though these amounts have been found, water districts have no federal or state regulations to follow on what constitutes too many drugs in the water.

"At this point, we don't have any studies that show what minute amounts or detections of some pharmaceuticals in water can have on human health. We just don't know," says Suravo.

The San Francisco Health Department said they would delay formal comment on the AP study. By telephone Dr. Bhatia Rajiv told ABC7 News, "with the new testing technologies, we are able to detect and find all the products of our industrial society in our water. I cannot comment on the Associated Press research until I view the scientific evidence."

The study found that traces of prescription drugs like antibiotics have been getting into drinking water for years. They say that people often dispose of their drugs in garbage or toilets which is how they find their way into the environment.

"Pharmaceuticals should be treated as hazardous waste and should not be disposed of in a casual or cavalier fashion," says San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno.

Leno says he's aware of the problem and is working with other assembly members to deal with the issue. A drug disposal pilot program is being planned.

"Their customers can return unused medicines to the pharmacy and that then the pharmacy could dispose of them properly," says Leno.

The pilot drug disposal pilot program is being set to begin later this year.