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The Drug Store in Your Tap Water

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You don't have to eat cattle who have worn trenbolone ear implants to end up with the growth stimulating androgenic hormone in your body reported the Associated Press in 2008.

Water taken near a Nebraska feedlot had four times the trenbolone levels as other water samples and male fathead minnows nearby had low testosterone levels and small heads.

Nor do you have to see a doctor to imbibe a witch's brew of prescriptions like pain pills, antibiotics and psychiatric, cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy and heart meds in your drinking water, says the AP. Free of charge.

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Other "biosolids" found in drinking water include anti-fungal drugs and the toxic plastic, Bisphenol A, from some bottled waters which people ironically drink to avoid tap water.

While pharma and water treatment professionals routinely deny the existence of prescription drugs in public waterways and drinking water -- easy to do when they are not tested for anyway! -- Mary Buzby director of environmental technology for pharma giant Merck was a little more candid in 2007.

"There's no doubt about it, pharmaceuticals are being detected in the environment and there is genuine concern that these compounds, in the small concentrations that they're at, could be causing impacts to human health or to aquatic organisms," she remarked at a conference in 2007, says the AP.

And if we need a second opinion from the antibiotics found in Tucson drinking water, sex hormones in San Francisco drinking water and seizure and anxiety meds in Southern California drinking water, there's the animals themselves.

Fish caught near wastewater treatment plants near five major US cities had residues of cholesterol, high blood pressure, allergy, bipolar and depression drugs reported Discovery news in 2006.

Male fish in the estrogen-saturated St. Lawrence River around Montreal are developing ovaries, reported Daniel Cyr, at Quebec's National Institute for Science Research according to the Independent Post in 2008.

And now fish in the same area are showing signs of the antidepressant Prozac in their systems says the University of Montreal.

(And that's not counting the feminized frogs with both female and male sex organs which are increasingly found in US waterways and even suburban ponds, an ominous "canary-in-the-water" trend that indicates serious ecological damage say scientists.)

When scientists studied hybrid striped bass exposed to Prozac at Clemson University, SC they found the fish maintained a position at the top of the water surface, sometimes with their dorsal fin out of the water unlike the fish not on Prozac who remained at the bottom of the tank. Staying near the top of the water and maintaining "a vertical position in the aquaria" could increase the bass' susceptibility to predators and decrease their survival reported the researchers. Nor did the bass eat as much as non-Prozac fish.

A similar loss in survival behaviors has been seen in shrimp exposed to Prozac who are five times more likely to swim toward light than away from it, making them also more susceptible to predators reports the Southern Daily Echo News.

''Crustaceans are crucial to the food chain and if shrimps' natural behaviour is being changed because of antidepressant levels in the sea this could seriously upset the natural balance of the ecosystem," says Dr Alex Ford, from the University of Portsmouth's Institute of Marine Sciences.

For years public health officials have told people that just because the bass and other fish in their waterways are contaminated with chlordane, PCBs and methylmercury it doesn't mean the drinking water is unsafe. But the prescription drugs levels in fish are precisely because the drinking water is unsafe.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health

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