Our water is becoming contaminated with Estrogen, psychotropic drugs and more, then we all consume it. Here is an article from a reputable source that tries to excuse all the estrogen from birth control pills because others sources are placing higher levels in our water, but I contend that just because one person/company is doing something wrong doesn’t excuse another company because they’re not “as bad”. Read this article first Birth Control Hormones In Water
Kirsten Moore, Kimberly Inez McGuire, Rivka Gordon, Tracey J. WoodruffThe past several years have seen a steady drumbeat of news reports, blog posts, and scientific studies which have raised concerns about the presence of estrogenic compounds (natural estrogens and synthetic chemicals that mimic natural estrogen) in waterways and drinking water, and potential harm to human health or aquatic life.1, 2, 3 Frequently, one particular synthetic estrogen has been singled out for purportedly detrimental effects on the environment: ethynyl-estradiol, or EE2, a synthetic estrogen used in birth control pills, patches, rings, and injectables. Journalists from along the political spectrum and anti-contraception advocates alike have seized on the idea of the-Pill-as-environmental-pollutant, and it has been difficult to separate environmental health concern from sensational coverage or politically motivated rhetoric.At the same time, anecdotal evidence suggests environmental footprint or “greenness” is increasingly one of the factors that many women consider in choosing among birth control methods, along with effectiveness, safety, convenience, cost, and acceptability.4, 5, 6 This raises the possibility that reports about the environmental impact of hormonal contraception could influence a woman's choice of this method, and underscores the need to understand the current science and provide women with unbiased information that allows them to make informed choices.
The effect of estrogenic compounds in the water supply from industry, agriculture, and other sources raises concerns about human health and deserves scrutiny. Estrogenic compounds are part of a larger category of chemicals known as endocrine-disruptors (EDCs), chemicals that can alter the hormonal and homeostatic systems enabling an organism—like a human being or other animal—to communicate with and respond to its environment.7 Given the demonstrated effects of EDCs on human reproductive health, it is important to examine the role played by EE2 in contributing to the presence of estrogenic compounds in our water.7 The good news is this: contrary to what has been stated or implied by media reports and anti-contraception advocates, synthetic estrogen from birth control pills is not the sole or primary source of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in water.8 New findings from researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) help explain why—and suggest a role for providers and women's health advocates in educating and empowering women to make informed choices about using contraception and limiting their exposures to harmful chemicals.
Birth control myths and misperceptions
In the United States alone, 13 million women use hormonal contraception to protect their health and prevent unwanted pregnancy.9 Birth control pills are one of the best-studied medications available, with over 50 years of data backing up their safety and effectiveness.10 Despite this, myths and misperceptions about birth control are prevalent, and young people in particular underestimate the effectiveness and overestimate the side effects associated with contraception.11 Furthermore, as long as hormonal contraception has been available, it has had detractors, some of whom contribute to the prevalence of these myths by actively spreading misinformation about birth control. For example, the American Life League has claimed that birth control pills “kill women” and “can also cause cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, depression and much more,” grossly mischaracterizing the risks of birth control.12 In fact, a 2010 study found that users of oral contraception had a significantly lower rate of death from any cause, and lower rates of death from all cancers compared with women of similar age not using oral contraceptives.13
In recent years, a number of conservative individuals and groups with a record of opposing contraception have pointed to reports about birth control in water to bolster the position that birth control is harmful. In 2009, a Vatican spokesperson released a statement saying that the Pill's “devastating effects on the environment” are “in part responsible for male infertility”.14 A little over a year later, the American Life League staged protests at women's health clinics organized around the slogan “the Pill kills the environment”.15 Conservative environmental analyst Iain Murray,16, 17 who has criticized climate change science, restrictions on DDT, and expansion of EPA regulations, wrote about “the Pill as pollutant” and criticized left-leaning environmental organizations for ignoring birth control's impact on the environment—attributing their silence to allegiance with women's health advocates.
Separating myths from facts about contraception can be difficult, especially given the complex and sometimes contradictory nature of the scientific evidence. Unfortunately, groups like the American Life League often fail to account for the many sources of estrogenic compounds in our drinking water (like industry and agriculture) and rarely acknowledge the substantial benefits birth control confers on women and communities.
Sources of estrogenic compounds in water
A literature review published in Environmental Science and Technology by researchers at the UCSF PRHE debunks the myth that birth control pills (and other estrogen-based hormonal contraceptives) are a major contributor to the presence of estrogenic compounds in waterways. The reviewers conclude that birth control pills contribute a negligible amount of synthetic estrogen to waterways, and EE2 is minimal or nonexistent in drinking water.8 The notion of unsuspecting Americans drinking water filled with birth control hormones may get headlines—but it does not accurately describe the state of the science.
The UCSF review cites several other sources of endocrine-disrupting compounds in our water, including synthetic estrogens in crop fertilizer (e.g., Atrazine), synthetic and natural estrogens from livestock, including dairy cows, which can be fed hormones to increase milk production, and an unknown number of industrial chemicals, like plastic additive bisphenol-A (BPA). Industrial chemicals may enter waterways either through chemical plant runoff or the disposal of products in landfills (Fig 1). Chemicals in pharmaceuticals such as anti-seizure medications and anti-depressants may also mimic estrogen.18 Furthermore, women using birth control are not the only ones flushing estrogen down the drain. Pregnant women excrete high levels of natural estrogens, and nearly everyone (both women and men) produce some amount of natural estrogens also released into wastewater.8
Fig. 1. Points of entry of endocrine-disrupting compounds into the water supply.8
While EE2 is more chemically potent than other estrogenic compounds, the amount of EE2 consumed by women using oral contraceptive is significantly less than the other sources described above. As an example, the volume of veterinary estrogens given to livestock each year in the US is five times the volume of EE2 consumed by women who use hormonal birth control methods.8
Solutions: roles for providers and women's health advocates
Providers have a key role to play in helping patients navigate these complex issues. As an influential source of information about contraceptive methods, providers are well-positioned to educate women about the impact of contraception on the environment—in this case, sharing the good news that the birth control pill is not the primary source of estrogenic compounds in our water supply. In addition, as women become more aware of the threats to fertility, sexual health, and birth outcomes posed by toxic chemicals in everyday products, they may seek information from providers about how to reduce exposure, particularly for women who are pregnant or trying to conceive. Providers can access excellent tools to help patients make informed decisions about limiting their exposures to potentially harmful substances.19, 21, 22
While a review of the existing research makes it clear that steroid contraception is not primarily to blame for the concerning levels of estrogenic compounds in water, there is clearly a role for women's health providers and advocates in addressing the larger problem. We know that EDCs have been linked to early puberty, infertility, and developmental defects, and that toxic chemicals are nearly ubiquitous in Americans' bodies, including pregnant women.23, 24 The weight of the evidence strongly suggests that reducing exposure to EDCs is critical to protecting reproductive health.25
Fortunately, there are several common-sense steps we can take to begin to reduce exposures to chemicals in the environment. First, we need improvements in water treatment to limit the presence of all chemicals and medications in water. We also need more research to better understand and assess the risks and harms of chemicals in our environment, including pharmaceuticals. Finally, we need to explore a variety of solutions to prevent synthetic estrogens from entering wastewater in the first place, including investments in green chemistry and green pharmaceuticals, regulation of agricultural runoff, and chemical policy reform to keep toxic chemicals out of our bodies and our environment. Several reproductive health groups, including the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals and Reproductive Health Technologies Project have joined a national effort to modernize chemical policies and improve human health.26
At the end of the day, we must not allow politics to trump science. Because contraception helps women protect their health and determine the number and spacing of their children, the use of any safe and effective contraceptive method is ultimately good for women, their families, and the environment. In addition, we now know that birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptive methods are not the primary reason for estrogenic compounds to be placed in our environment. Nevertheless, exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment can harm reproductive health, and reproductive health advocates should work alongside environmental health advocates to reduce exposures to toxic chemicals. Together, we should educate and empower women to make informed choices about their reproductive health, and reaffirm our shared values: healthy women, healthy families, and a healthy environment.
Kimberly Inez McGuire
Reproductive Health Technologies Project
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
Tracey J. Woodruff
Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment
University of California San Francisco
Before reading the following article from WebMD think about this:
- The drugs in the water are not going away
- More and more people are being prescribed drugs every day
- There is more than one source, it’s not just pharmaceuticals
- The drugs in the water are adding up as we speak
I have no solution, there is no solution, I’m just pointing out what’s happening to show that there is no way this world can go on and on, it has to end. Soon we will have depleted all the soil of nutrients, filled our drinking water with contaminants and we will not be able to recover.
Drugs in Our Drinking Water?
Tiny amounts of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, hormones, mood stabilizers, and other drugs — are in our drinking water supplies, according to a media report.
In an investigation by the Associated Press, drinking water supplies in 24 major metropolitan areas were found to include drugs.
According to the investigation, the drugs get into the drinking water supply through several routes: some people flush unneeded medication down toilets; other medicine gets into the water supply after people take medication, absorb some, and pass the rest out in urine or feces. Some pharmaceuticals remain even after wastewater treatments and cleansing by water treatment plants, the investigation showed.
Although levels are low — reportedly measured in parts per billion or trillion — and utility companies contend the water is safe, experts from private organizations and the government say they can’t say for sure whether the levels of drugs in drinking water are low enough to discount harmful health effects.
WebMD asked experts to give their take on the potential risks of drugs in the water supply.
Is this a new phenomenon, the finding of pharmaceuticals in public water supplies?
No. Low levels of pharmaceuticals in the water supply have been a concern for a decade or longer, says Sarah Janssen, MD, PHD, MPH, a science fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental action group.
“Ever since the late 1990s, the science community has recognized that pharmaceuticals, especially oral contraceptives, are found in sewage water and are potentially contaminating drinking water,” Janssen tells WebMD.
Concern among scientists increased when fish in the Potomac River and elsewhere were found to have both male and female characteristics when exposed to estrogen-like substances, she says. For instance, some fish had both testes and an ovary, she says.
Scientists starting looking at the effects of oral contraceptives first, she says. “Now analyses have expanded to look at other drugs,” Janssen says.
Technology has made this research easier, says Suzanne Rudzinski, deputy director for science and technology in the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Analytical methods have gotten better and we are able to detect lower levels than ever before.”
Is there a health effect of drugs in drinking water?
All sides of the debate agree this is not known for sure. “At this point we don’t have evidence of a health effect,” Rudzinski says, “although it’s an area of concern and one we will continue to look at.”
Janssen agrees: “We don’t know. It’s true that the levels [of the medications found in drinking water] are very low. But especially when it comes to pharmaceuticals that are synthetic hormones, there is concern, because hormones work at very low concentrations in the human body.”
“We don’t want people to be alarmed and think they can’t drink their tap water or that they shouldn’t be drinking water,” Janssen says. “We think this report in particular is a call for our federal agencies — EPA in particular — to do further studies to see what the health effects are.”
EPA’s ongoing research is focusing on the effect of pharmaceuticals in the water supply on aquatic life and human health, Rudzinski says. But she could not supply details of how much money is being allocated to that research effort or when to expect answers.
Are certain people — say pregnant women, children, the elderly — more sensitive to the potential effects of drugs in the drinking water supply?
Again, it’s not known, Janssen says. “We know that kids, including babies and toddlers, as well as fetuses, are more susceptible to environmental exposures because their bodies are still developing and their exposure on a pound-per-pound basis is higher. And they lack the detoxification system adults have. So it is not unreasonable to expect they would be at higher risk.”
Can boiling tap water get rid of the medicines, or would drinking bottled water solve the problem?
Boiling will not solve the problem, Janssen says. And forget bottled water as a way to escape the low levels of drugs found in some public water supplies. “Twenty five percent of bottled water comes from the tap,” she says, citing an NRDC report.
Labels on bottled water, regulated by the FDA, help consumers know what they are getting, says Stephen Kay, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association. If bottled water companies use water from municipal sources and do not treat it further to purify it, the FDA views the source as legitimate but requires the label to state that it is from a municipal or community water system. Bottled water companies that use municipal source water, but then treat and purify it by using reverse osmosis, distillation, or other processes can label it as such using terms such as “purified water” or “reverse osmosis” water.
Home filtering systems such as reverse osmosis may reduce the medication levels, says Timothy Bartrand, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Drexel University, Philadelphia, who participated in a National Science Foundation workshop to develop a drinking water research agenda.
“An activated charcoal system will remove some pharmaceutical drugs but not all,” Janssen says. “A reverse osmosis system can also remove some.”
What else can consumers do to find answers or improve the situation?
Contact your local public utilities and ask them what pollutants they test for in drinking water, Janssen says, as one way to raise awareness of the problem. Contacting your senator or congressman is another.
When disposing of expired or unneeded medications, don’t flush them, Rudzinski says. Instead, mix unused or unwanted drugs with coffee grounds or kitty litter, something that will be unpalatable to pets. Put the mixture in a sealed container so it’s not accessible to children or pets and put the mixture in the trash.