Stream Shows Many Contaminants


The first U.S. nationwide survey of contaminants downstream from sewage plants and livestock herds revealed traces of dozens of drugs, disinfectants, hormones, and chemicals excreted by smokers, among other contaminants, according to an online report in Environmental Science and Technology.

Almost all of the contaminants occur at less than one part per billion, and it isn't clear what effects they have on humans and wildlife, according to the researchers, who are affiliated with the United States Geological Survey.

The survey could lead to changes in the drug approval process, federal officials said, perhaps prompting tests for hazards that a drug might pose once it leaves the body. "Hopefully, the study will help people understand that chemicals they use and consume on a daily basis and their behavior can affect our environment and water resources," Herbert T. Buxton, coordinator of the geological survey's toxic substances hydrology program and an author of the study, told the New York Times.

Studies performed a decade ago found similar widespread, low-level contamination in the streams of Europe. Some pollution experts said the contamination levels are probably too low to cause any harm.

"Just detecting these substances, whether in water, air or even in our bodies, at such minuscule levels doesn't mean they have a deleterious effect on humans or the environment," said Gilbert L. Ross, the medical director for the American Council on Science and Health, a private health education group.

Thanks to United Press International and

U.S. Geological Survey

LINK to actual survey results

Triclosan Bcomes Dioxin in Ultraviolet Light

US Geological Survey, 4/03

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