Can you taste the 56 different flavors in the water you drink?
Last month, the Associated Press reported that traces of pharmaceuticals were found in the nation's water supply. In the article, investigators in Philadelphia were said to have found 56 different pharmaceuticals or byproducts in the city's water supply.
However, despite the frightening nature of this find, city officials and experts agree that the medicines are present in such small amounts that they do not pose a serious health risk.
Philadelphia Water Department spokeswoman Laura Copeland emphasized that this a global problem and that there is no known negative human health impact that can be attributed to the trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in tap water.
According to the AP, city water contains medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems.
Environmental Science professor Robert Giegengack said the finding of these substances is "not news" and the presence of these kinds of chemicals is not uncommon.
"With the right kind of analytical tool you can find every element in the periodic table in the drinking water," he said.
Despite the laundry list of chemicals found in the city's water, Philadelphia is actively trying to stay ahead of the curve on this issue.
Copeland said the city has known about the presence of pharmaceuticals since 2004 and that Philadelphia voluntarily chose to participate in the tap water study.
According to Copeland, there is no process or tool for removing the medication from tap water. She said that standard home water filters made with granulated carbon are "not highly effective at removing [pharmaceuticals]."
Copeland said that the best way individuals can help purify the water supply is "to pay attention to how they are disposing of pharmaceuticals."
Giegengack agreed that it is difficult to protect drinking water from these chemicals.
He said that introducing new treatments to defend against this type of contamination is difficult because they would have to be "developed on a one-by-one basis" for each pharmaceutical.
College junior Anil Venkatesh, who is involved with water issues on campus, said that he was not alarmed by the discovery, but he would like to see more money spent on researching these chemicals' effect on human health.
According to Giegengack, this problem has existed for the past 20 years and the public should not be worried about the new findings.
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