Mon September 12, 2011

GAO Report Draws Attention to Pharmaceuticals in Water Supply

According to a new Government Accountability Office report, more action is needed to limit pharmaceutical drugs from entering the drinking water supply. And one starting point are so-called “drug take back programs,” which exist in Colorado and 24 other states.

Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S Geological Survey have detected pharmaceuticals in the country’s water. While it’s not known exactly what the human health effects are some federal research has connected trace amounts of antibiotics to hormone development issues in humans.


“This is an emerging issue in public health where we’re detecting small amounts of pharmaceuticals in our water ways,” said Warren Smith, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

In 2009, the state started a pilot project to offer an alternative for people looking to dispose of their drugs safely.

“It allows for people to go to King Soopers and the Tri Country Health Department, and also a couple of City Markets in Dillon and Breckenridge where they can dispose of their unwanted medications,” he said.

Almost 13,000 pounds have been collected at 11 take-back locations across the state since the program started.

The GAO report calls for a more “formal mechanism” to coordinate research among federal agencies like the EPA, and communicate those results to the public.