Monday, March 10, 2008

Drugs In The Water

This was the big news yesterday: Prescription drugs found in drinking water across the United States.

It seems to me that this may be the ultimate pinnacle of modern media-centered scare science. After all, what sounds more scary (and scientific) then ... "our water is contaminated with everything." It's a problem that starts with the public's general lack of scientific understanding, includes the media, and even includes the scientists who issue the scary sound bites.

The truth should be obvious to any environmental geek- our environment is all interconnected. We use all sorts of drugs, so all sorts of drugs are present throughout our environment. Scientifically speaking, these are interesting findings, but I can't say I'm all that surprised. Although nothing has been said specifically, I worry about the general tone this sort of reporting takes. The focus seems to be all the possible risks we're facing, not the further studies that need to be done. I have no idea what the effects of small trace amounts of pharmaceuticals would be. I don't think anyone does, nor have I seen any number crunching as to what these numbers actually mean. Do the results add up to 1 pill over the course of a lifetime of drinking water? 2 pills? 10 pills? Enough for us to be worried about? I don't know about you, but taking in the equivalent of one of every scary sounding pill on the planet over the course of my lifetimes just isn't enough to scare me. And it certainly shouldn't be enough to warrant a scared public.

When it comes to danger, the fact is that the dose makes the poison. Before any legislation or regulation, I'd like to see some science. Thank God the EPA shows more common sense than certain other people in this world.


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