Out of Sight, Out of Mind
by Washington Grain Commision
Wheat Life, July 2010
With pesticide residues that can be measured in parts per billion, commercial farmers and their chemical company applicators follow strict guidelines to ensure safety. Meanwhile, thousands of tons of equally troublesome chemicals that aren't fully metabolized by the body are being flushed down millions of toilets without a second thought.
With more than 1,000 prescription pharmaceuticals in the US and thousands more over-the-counter remedies, it's estimated there are 80,000 potential combinations of chemicals going into the nation's water supplies. Scientists have known since the 1970s about the pharmaceutical residue in some water sources, but they had bigger fish to fry back then -- like rivers catching on fire.
In the 1990s, estrogens from birth control pills started showing up in water, leading male fish to have indeterminate sex organs, and regulators woke up. Interestingly, the same explanation used by ag chemical manufacturers to assure the public of the safety of their products is now being used by scientists who are finding things like anti-bacterials, anti-psychotis and anti-depressants in the rivers and drinking water.
That is: testing techniques have become so refined even the most inconsequential levels of contaminants cannot elude detection. "Some of these concentrations are thousands of parts smaller than what could be of pharmaceutical concern. We're aware that they're there only because we're measuring at parts per billion," said the director of the Water Research Foundation.
Toxic Contaminants and Their Effects on Resident Fish and Salmonids by Jennifer Morace, Lyndal Johnson & Elena Nilsen, Science Policy Exchange, 11/11/9
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