A growing problemResearchers are exploring the extent to which pharmaceuticals are found in the water supply; however, it is clear that this is an emergent issue. People often dispose of leftover pharmaceuticals down the drain, rather than through local drop-off collection programs or in a safe manner at home. Hospitals are also a source of pharmaceuticals that appear in municipal wastewater. In addition, individuals often only metabolize a portion of the drugs they ingest, meaning that some of the compounds are ultimately expelled into the sewage system, though removal proves difficult. In fact, in a 2013 study, the International Joint Commission determined that only half of prescription drugs in sewage were removed by treatment plants. Ultimately, the water treatment and septic systems are not equipped to address this source of contamination. Pesticides and herbicides, hormones from contraceptive birth control, beta-blockers, antibiotics, and other pharmaceutical compounds have been discovered in water reservoirs, water treatment plans, and watersheds. Many scientists are concerned about potential contamination of drinking water. The Associated Press also conducted its own independent research and found pharmaceuticals present in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. Although these compounds are only present at very low levels, further research is underway to determine the potential effects. In addition, there are concerns that contamination by antibiotics, in particular, may affect people’s health by cultivating an environment where bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics. The extent of the impact on human health is under study, and there is also emerging evidence that there is an effect on the health of aquatic wildlife. Scientists are noticing that some fish populations have shown abnormalities, including male fish growing female egg cells. This is suspected to be the result of exposure to hormone-disrupting water pollution, including estrogen from birth control pills. Fish wildlife are extremely sensitive to their environments, but this issue does illustrate potential water quality concerns.
Making waves in water testing and treatmentResearchers from the University of Surrey have published research that showcases a new “supermolecule” that can detect and remove pharmaceuticals from water in an effective and environmentally friendly manner. This supermolecule, a derivative of calixarene, interacts with and extracts common pharmaceutical compounds from water. The receptors bind selectively with the pollutant so that they can be removed This method may be applicable to many kinds of materials and compounds. This research is particularly promising because it may potentially allow for on-site water quality monitoring, rather than testing samples in a separate laboratory. In addition, this method may emerge as more cost effective than other technologies, such as ozonation and carbon filtration, which are very expensive. Other promising research and policies include the development of pharmaceuticals that the body better retains, public awareness campaigns on drug disposal options, upgraded water treatment infrastructure, and additional public health research. This is an issue that will not go away anytime soon. A multi-pronged approach will be needed in order to tackle the existing water quality concerns and prevent future contamination.
The CSIS Energy & National Security Program cordially invites you to:
Chief Economist, International Energy Agency
Senior Fellow, Energy & National Security Program, CSIS
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Center for Strategic & International Studies 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036The CSIS Energy & National Security Program is pleased to host Laszlo Varro, Chief Economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA), to discuss the IEA's World Energy Investment 2017. Energy investment in 2016 totaled 1.7 trillion dollars, around 2.2 percent of the global economy. The report covers critical details about energy investment across various energy sectors, sources, and regions. It also includes a special focus on a wide array of topics, including how digitization is impacting investment and employment, global investment in innovation, and the impact of emerging business models. The report assesses the importance of energy policy driving investment into energy efficiency and into facilities that ensure adequate levels of energy security. Jane Nakano, Senior Fellow with the CSIS Energy & National Security Program, will moderate. Click here to register. This event is made possible by general funding to CSIS and the Energy & National Security Program. Copyright © 2017 Center for Strategic & International Studies, All rights reserved. 202-887-0200 | www.CSIS.org Center for Strategic & International Studies 1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20036