IT’S ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS LINES EVER WRITTEN, but when Samuel Taylor Coleridge published ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ he could not have envisioned the nightmarish truth to the words “water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”
When I was filming my documentary GENERATION RX, I met a British psychiatrist and we talked about the revelation that Prozac had been discovered in the River Thames . . .had entered the water supply and was literally being consumed by millions of Brits.
“Are people in London really THAT depressed?” I asked him, somewhat sheepishly.
“No, no. . .no,” was his response while chortling.
As it turns out, however, our conversation was no laughing matter.
Over the past few years, events have proven that the concern over drugs in public rivers and streams are not limited to the UK. In America, the Associated Press (AP) uncovered that “at least 271 millions of pounds” of unused pharmaceuticals are being released by the drug companies in our public waterways annually. Millions more are flushed down the toilet and down the drain, according to environmental watchdogs, including the painkillers ibuprofen and naproxen as well as gemifibrozil, a cholesterol-lowering medication, and further research has shown that drugs containing hormones such as estrogen are causing changes and deformities in fish and other aquatic creatures..and endangering human health.
Make no mistake: we are also the victims of industry, hospitals and nursing homes which are pumping powerful contaminants and intoxicants like lithium into the world’s drinking water every single day, which is being mixed in a cesspool of antibiotics, nitroglycerin (a heart drug that is also used in explosives), and dozens of different active pharmaceutical ingredients used for treatment of hypertension, heart disease, chronic liver ailments, depression, gonorrhea, ulcers and other ailments.
It’s not only bad news for the fish, but for tens of millions of us.
If one refuses to take this threat seriously, they need only look to India, where a growing environmental and public health disaster is looming. When researchers analyzed vials of treated wastewater from a plant where about 90 Indian drug factories dump their residues, they were stunned to discover that a powerful antibiotic, ciprofloxacin, was “being spewed into one stream each day.” Enough antibiotics were being released daily “to treat every person in a city of 90,000.”
And it’s not just ciprofloxacin. The water — supposedly cleaned by a wastewater filtration plant — was “a floating soup of 21 different active pharmaceutical ingredients, used in generics for treatment of hypertension, heart disease, chronic liver ailments, depression, gonorrhea, ulcers and other ailments,” according to the AP.
Researchers in India said, “It is the highest levels of pharmaceuticals ever detected in the environment,” but then again, this level of testing has yet to arrive in North America, where the AP has confirmed that this nightmare is coming to an ocean, stream, lake, or landfill near you.
“One thing is clear,” the AP report warned, “the massive amount of pharmaceuticals being flushed by the health services industry is aggravating an emerging problem: the commonplace presence of. . .pharmaceuticals in the nation’s drinking water supplies, affecting at least 46 million Americans.”
The AP series follows one by the New York Times last Spring, the BBC last year, the UK’s Guardian newspaper and probably countless others. Millions of tons of narcotics, antipsychotics, antidepressants, stimulant drugs and more are being ingested by children, the elderly, and well, ALL of us who do not use some kind of sophisticated water purification system.
Now, that the AP has confirmed that codeine, lithium (used in bipolar drugs), blood thinners, chemotherapy agents like fluorouracil, epilepsy drugs and sedatives are being released into the environment by the ton, North America and the rest of the world had better take notice — and take action to protect themselves. Anyone who does not have access to a powerful water filtration system is playing Russian roulette every time they drink water from the tap.
Indeed, the situation gets darker and far more dangerous every single day. As tons of drugs taint the world’s water supply, this issue only underscores the horrors we must confront as petrochemical and other multinationals vie for water privatization — and more power over our health — and our lives.
Kevin P. Miller is an award-winning writer/director. This article was submitted as part of BLOG ACTION DAY 2010. blogactionday.change.org