The Dangers of Pharmaceuticals in Water

Jun 20 , 2023

The Dangers of Pharmaceuticals in Water

Ever heard the phrase ‘Better living through chemistry’? We’re fortunate to live in a time when advanced medical science is helping people live better and longer lives. This includes the field of pharmaceuticals, where new medicines are created constantly. However, these advancements come with a darker side. Each year, hundreds of pharmaceuticals are found in your water – and the amount may be rising. What does this mean for you? Luckily, we’ve got everything you need to know.

What are pharmaceuticals? And how do they get into our water?

Pharmaceuticals are chemical compounds that are sold to provide therapeutic value to patients. These can range from simple, over-the-counter drugs – like headache or allergy medications – all the way up to prescription drugs that treat serious conditions like cancer, neurological disorders and more.

There are a variety of ways that these drugs can end up in our water. One way is through improper disposal. When drugs expire, it’s not uncommon for people to dispose of them by flushing them down the toilet or pouring them down the drain. Some pharmaceuticals are purposefully disposed of by flushing – the FDA advises medical facilities that, when no other options exist, some drugs like opioids should be flushed.

In other cases, our bodies don’t fully metabolize the drugs we take, and they can be found in our waste. The pharmaceuticals given to animals and livestock can end up in our water, too, through the water cycle. Once in our municipal water systems, the pharmaceuticals dissolve and are absorbed, and they often aren’t filtered out during the water treatment process. It’s not just surface water, either. A 2019 study showed that 11.3% of public wells that were tested showed at least one pharmaceutical contaminant, meaning that they can ride out earth’s natural filtration process.

What damage can they potentially do?

Since these drugs are diluted by the time they reach the water treatment facility, they typically appear in small amounts. As a result, studies like the 2019 one cited above hold that pharmaceuticals are unlikely to have an adverse effect on human health.

The same cannot be said for animals. Because these pharmaceuticals were designed with humans in mind, animals’ systems are unused to them and are therefore more vulnerable. As they filter up through the food chain, the contaminants become more concentrated and can have devastating effects on wildlife. These effects can range from the bewildering to the life-threatening, including organ failure. Because animals cannot advocate for themselves, we have a responsibility to take care of our water for them.

How can I keep pharmaceuticals out of my water?

  • Don’t flush your drugs. The FDA sponsors drug take back programs and collection sites where unused or expired pharmaceuticals can be turned in to be disposed of safely.
  • Test your water. Before purchasing, make sure that your testing kit checks for pharmaceuticals. Check out our article for more information.
  • Raise awareness in your community. If you weren’t aware of this topic, it’s likely your neighbors aren’t aware of it, either. Communicate with your community – the more people you can reach, the fewer pharmaceuticals end up in your water. Reach out to your local watershed district or health department for additional resources.
  • Advocate for better water treatment. Pharmaceuticals can be filtered out through more thorough water treatment methods. However, this can be a very slow process, and if you’re using well water, this isn’t an option.
  • Buy a King Water Filtration system. KWF’s comprehensive systems come with a dedicated stage that will filter pharmaceuticals and many other contaminants out of your water. With our Hi-Activity Catalytic Carbon filtration stage that’s available in our Platform and Signature models, all pharmaceuticals are filtered out by the carbon’s high porosity, and its high grade ensures a longer service life than other, lower grades of carbon. Ensure that you have access to the cleanest, purest water possible with King Water Filtration.

We hope that this article has armed you with some knowledge about this topic. If you’re interested in setting up a water system today, contact us at 1-855-957-2166 or schedule a consultation via our contact form. You can also purchase King Water Filtration systems through Home Depot.