Hey Drug Warriors, You’re Looking In The Wrong Places: Pharmaceuticals Found In 100 Percent Of US Streams Tested
Remember in old cartoons and sitcoms how hapless fishermen would sometimes haul up an old boot from the depths of a stream or lake to symbolize his or her ineptitude and the filthiness of their fishing holes?
Always good for a laugh on Saturday morning cartoons. These days however, it’s impossible to see all the nasty things that are in our water. Impossible, that is, unless you test for it, which is just what the US Geological Survey did in a recent study that has quietly been swept under the rug despite–or perhaps because of–the alarming findings.
The USGS found that an alarming number of American streams carry traces of drugs, in some cases far more than expected. Sampling 59 small streams in the Southeast and testing for 108 different pharmaceutical compounds, the researchers found at least one and often many more chemicals in every sampled stream. Most of the streams tested positive for six chemicals or more.
Take another look at that: every single stream they tested was positive, and not just for one or two chemicals; six or more on average were found.
Most common among the drugs they discovered were acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol–which has been shown to be linked to liver damage, kidney disease and many other ailments–the pain reliever lidocaine, tramadol, an opioid pain reliever; fexofenadine, which is an antihistamine found in Mucinex and Allegra; and metformin, a type 2 diabetes drug.
One possible source is of course the inevitable waste water that leaks out of humans and will make its way to waterways of all kinds no matter how hard we try to contain it. One recent study showed that the salmon near Seattle were off the charts for levels of cocaine and anti-depressants–just like the human residents of the area, one assumes.
But another conceivable source for all these drugs in our freshwater streams may be biosolids–a nice, wholesome sounding euphemism for human waste that has lately come into favor for farmers trying to save a few bucks on fertilizer, and municipalities trying to reduce sewage treatment bills.
The problem is these biosolids–let’s be honest and call it what it is, human poop–that is being spread on crops of food we eat can be teeming with drugs and disease of all kinds.
And they are rarely if ever tested.
These drugs can have a profound effect on plant and animal life, disrupting hormones, altering insects neurotransmitters, and even harming plants directly. But as plants and insects absorb them, they climb the food chain and will eventually make their way to us.
So, yeah, all those billions we spend on the drug way could be better spent cleaning up after ourselves. Here’s one vote to send the DEA a bunch of hip-waders and taking away their guns and get them started cleaning up our waterways immediately.