Senate asks if drinking water's safe

Prescription drugs at a pharmacy.

TEXT OF STORY

Renita Jablonski: Forget Vitamin Water. An ordinary glass of municipal tap can contain a long list of prescription medications. Today, Congress splashes in the safety question. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sam Eaton reports.


Sam Eaton: Today's Senate hearing was prompted by recent Associated Press reports that found traces of drugs like antibiotics, anti-depressants and heart medications in the drinking water of two dozen major cities. The culprit is human waste that makes its way back into the water supply, drugs intact. Pharmaceutical companies say there's no proven risk to human health. But Natural Resources Defense Council scientist Jennifer Sass says those findings are based on individual drug exposures, not the cocktail found in municipal water supplies.

Jennifer Sass: These chemicals are active in our bodies even at those low levels. And, in addition we're getting a lot of them, not just one or two and not just by prescription.

Sass says the problem shows just how pervasive prescription drug use has become in America. Meanwhile, a White House task force assigned to the issue has failed to meet its deadline for devising a national research strategy.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

About the author

Sam Eaton is an independent radio and television journalist. His reporting on complex environmental issues from climate change to population growth has taken him all over the United States and the world.

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