Reporter's Notes: Drugs In Our Drinking Water

It's tricky to talk about pharmaceuticals in the drinking water without risking two really unfortunate side effects: 1) Make people panic that their tap water is unsafe. 2) Send listeners running to Costco to buy pallet-loads of overpriced, highly packaged, and often dubiously-sourced bottled water.

You can never really say enough about everything that's wrong with bottled water (which, by the way, adheres to lower safety standards than what comes out of your tap-– sorry, couldn’t resist!). But when it comes to drugs in the water, what strikes me as most interesting is what we know the least about: What do these tiny, tiny amounts of drugs mean to us humans?

"The dose makes the poison" is a mantra I hear constantly from public health experts (as well as my editors)– and it's worth considering. In other words: just because something exists does not mean it's affecting you. It's likely we're exposed to far more toxins in the act of, say, applying nail polish, or pumping a tank of gas, than we'll imbibe over a lifetime of drinking tap water. But it'll be interesting to watch this play out over the next decade or so, as scientists on all sides of the debate try and figure out what exactly effect our environment-– pharmaceuticals, nail polish, plastics, and countless other everyday substances-- is having on us.

Listen to the Drugs In Our Drinking Water Radio report online.
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