Thomas Sheffield Sustainability

The Associated Press has reported that there are a vast array of pharmaceuticals including antibiotics, ibuprofen, mood stabilizers and sex hormones have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.  Although the concentrations of these drugs are tiny, just knowing these are in our water is rather disheartening.

If we consider what it takes to bring clean water to our homes, we can see it is not an easy task.  There are miles of pipeline hidden below the ground.  The water goes from the source(lakes and rivers) to the plant where it is tested and treated, to our homes.  Considering this, many people are responsible for getting safe, high quality water to us in order for us to drink, cook and bathe.  Our water is essential to public health, the economy and our quality of life.

How do these drugs get into our water?  People take pills and our bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet.  Then many people flush old medication down the toilet which contributes to the problem.  The wastewater is treated before it goes into reservoirs, rivers and lakes.  They are also cleansed again at our drinking water treatment plants and piped to our homes.  However, most of the treatments do not remove all the drug residue.  The federal government doesn’t require any testing and hasn’t set safety limits for drugs in the water.

Some people may be vulnerable to the different contaminants found in drinking water than in the general population.  This includes people with cancer that are undergoing chemotherapy, people who have had organ transplants, people with immune systems disorders such as HIV/AIDS, the elderly and young children may be at risk.  If you feel you fall into these categories, seek the advice of your health providers before consuming water from the tap.

We must do what we can to protect our water.  It starts at home.  Think before you flush.  Flushing unused or expired medicines can be harmful to our drinking water.  Properly disposing of unused or expired medication helps to protect the environment.  Tennessee has permanent pharmaceutical take back bins.  There are nearly 100 bins located across the state.  Please visit to find a bin near you.

Scott Pruitt has been appointed to lead the EPA, the government agency charged with protecting our natural resources, safety and health.  His record on environment protection is not very good.  Therefore, we must do it ourselves and not contribute to the pollution of our water sources.  There are three things that should be flushed down the toilet:  toilet paper, urine and human waste.  Just because it will flush, does not mean it should be flushed.  Other than the three items listed, trash it.  This will help prevent your pipes from becoming clogged and will help to protect the water and streams we depend on.

Please feel free to contact me or you can follow me on Twitter @tcsheff.  #Resist #Wordsactionchange