Los Angeles is a city synonymous with fame and fortune, glitz and glamour. People shoot to stardom over night and fall from grace the following afternoon. It is a town fueled by what can only be described as some form of artistic proletariat, slaving away, in bars and night clubs, coffee shops and casting studios.
With a multitude of late night starving artists, we find a city that relies on a concoction of uppers and downers that tries to maintain stability. Antidepressants such Prozac and Effexor are popular, however more intense prescription SSRI drugs (Klonopin, Topomax) are also common – these are used to combat the symptoms of withdrawal from substances such as cocaine and crystal meth.
All this information would be somewhat irrelevant if you have not been prescribed any of the afore mentioned substances, but research has shown that you don’t really need a prescription – you’re already consuming them.
If you live in an uber area there is a good chance you tap water is laced with tiny amounts of pharmaceuticals.
There’s no mystery to the way prescription medications wind up in our tap water. Whether you flush a bottle of old pills down the toilet or, more likely, excrete the remains of a daily dose (an estimated 80% isn’t broken down in our bodies), active chemicals get recycled back into reservoirs because sewage treatment plants aren’t able to filter them out. “They just fly right through,” says Michael Thomas, an associate professor of bioinformatics at Idaho State University.
What is scary is that government officials and scientists are in no rush to look into this potential threat, however some environmentalists are becoming worried. In a preliminary study at the University of Idaho, fathead minnows were placed in water spiked with a combination of SSRIs and anticonvulsants—a lab version of American tap water. After swimming in the contaminated water for 18 days, the minnows exhibited 324 genetic alterations associated with human neurological disorders, including autism.
The issue is slowly gaining global interest and awareness after the peculiarities of sedative-fed fish were highlighted in a front- page article in The New York Times. The fish had been fed trace doses of oxazepam—a benzodiazepine commonly used in Europe—over a period of two months, as part of a Swedish study. The fish exposed to the anti-anxiety medication socialized less but ate more zooplankton and swam further, behaviors with potential long-term consequences for local ecosystems. This sparked fears among environmentalists that under the influence, the fish are more susceptible to predators, which could weaken the strength of the species. Not mentioned in the Times piece is the fact that SSRIs have been detected in plankton, which are a “foundation” organism in the food chain. “It’s inescapable,” Sudeep Chandra, an associate professor of natural resources and environmental science at the University of Nevada, told the AP. “There’s enough global information now to confirm [trace pharmaceuticals] are affecting organisms and wildlife.”
While the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates that other kinds of contaminants, such as pesticides and lead, be filtered out before our drinking water flows through a municipal tap, there remain no guidelines at all for pharmaceuticals, which means this is an issue that can literally slip through the cracks.