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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Portland adopts universal health care program

It's really simple: The tap water contains Tylenol, Advil, and a sulfa drug.

Glad there's no fluoride.

How the heck does that stuff get in our water? Are the Chinese blowing it up their chimneys? Do the elk up at Bull Run have headaches and bacterial infections? And do they have Regence, Providence, or Kaiser?

Comments (20)

The hormone and Prozac content explains much.

The "how" was answered yesterday on NPR. According to their talking head, the drugs are unmetabolized after consumption and pass through the urine into the water. Despite treatment and various stages of the process, trace amounts of the drugs make their way back into the system.

yeah, i blogged about this yesterday. the problem is big--it's affecting the water table too, in ways that (so far) can't be measured. and--nobody knows the effect on long-term human health.

pass the Aquafina. er, Xanax.

The Bull Run water is pure and does not contain contaminants. The polluted underground well water that is added to the Bull Run is the culprit.

Bull Run is great, but--it's not pure. it contains contaminants, but current measurement methods put them quite low. and Portland occasionally swtiches from Bull Run to backup sources when contaminants run high.

and notice that Portland adds chlorine, which the drug article notes may increase the toxicity of drugs making it into the water supply.

I saw a scientist on one of the news pieces about this yesterday explaining that "one part per trillion" is about the same as an aspirin tablet dropped in 100 Olympic size swimming pools.

One's gonna have to drink a helluva lot of water for this to have much effect.

Much more sinister is the amount of mercury and other highly toxic pollutants that have been in our water supply for decades.

Tiny, tiny amounts of substances--are they harmful? I'm going to be a sceptic on this. Education and experience tell me that the body usually handles small amounts of all sorts of things that could be toxic. Alcohol for example. If you drink too much it can kill in a short time. Yet even if you get drunk, your body copes and recovers (although it gives you a hint to two the morning after.) So how is it that micro micro amounts of drugs are something we should get all excited about?

("Most authorities agree that blood alcohol concentrations in the 0.40 - 0.50% range meet the requirements for the LD:50." --from

Tylenol & Ibprofen I can understand. I'm more concerned about the sulfamethoxazol, which is an antibiotic. Pre human infection antibiotic resistance diseases ... I'm sure the CDC will love that.

And caffeine isn't a surprise, especially with the coffee & soda consumption of the folks I know.

Is this a problem? Are trace amounts even news?
One big problem in all of this is the growing misuse of information and a lack of proportianality.
And outright fabrication.
I mean when we hear commercials telling us that a Gorge Casino will result in a "million more car trips" a year causing more "Acid Rain" we know things just get made up. Cars don't cause acid rain.

So I'm not too alarmed with these trace amounts of stuff.

Meanwhile, biofuels plants are dumping into out rivers a "ribbon of oil and grease 450 times higher than permit levels typically allow".

I swear, the people and system we have will have us going another 10 years down this biofuels path, knowing full well it is doing more harm than good.

What we have in abundance are excuses.

This story strikes me the way many of them do. You know, the story about how eating something causes cancer in mice. What they don't tell you is that you have to eat 300 lbs of it daily for a year to have the same effect.

I am not dismissing the potential, but the aspirin in the pools analogy doesn't really make to too concerned about this issue. Yet.

How much meth is in the water?

Interesting, given the fact that whenever the subject of adding Flouride to the water supplies in Oregon comes up - all sorts of "experts" come out of the woodwork to say it will have devastating effects on our health. Ever notice that most of these "experts" do not work in dentistry? Or that most major cities in the USA have had Flouride in their city water supplies for years with minimal health problems reported? One has to wonder how many extra dollars this has put in the pockets of dentists in Oregon.

"One has to wonder how many extra dollars this has put in the pockets of dentists in Oregon."

Not much. Those who don't care about their teeth wouldn't get a filling even if they had the money. They just get an extraction once the carie blows up. Cheaper than a root canal, crown or partial.

99.99% of all dentists, hygienists and MDs support fluoridation of muni water supplies.

per Leno:

"LA water officials announce that the contaminant most prevalent in the metro water supply was anti-anxiety drugs. They really don't know why anybody would be worried about that."

The meds mentioned in the national news media are NOT in Portland's water supply - because our water supply does not contain recycled sewage effluent, like much of the nation's drinking water supply. Our groundwater does not contain these pharmaceutical contaminants either (not yet, anyway).

As far as the argument for flouride goes - when you start allowing dietary supplements to be added to your drinking water - where do you stop?? Should we add vitamins to the drinking water? Someone mentioned prozac - why not??

When compared to the hormones and anti-biotics put into beef, poultry, and pork; plus all the herbicides and pesticides on fruit and vegetables, this is much ado about nothing. Portland's tap water is safe (check for lead pipes though).

Why is this a big story around here? I can't remember when I have seen a PDXer drink tap water anyway (unless they were a homeless).

The meds mentioned in the national news media are NOT in Portland's water supply

Our groundwater does not contain these pharmaceutical contaminants either (not yet, anyway).

in truth, we don't know. nobody's measured it here, Frank. that's one of the problems mentioned in the article--measurement problems.

Ecohuman, I thought today's article in the O said that the water bureau did test the well water and found trace amounts of 3 pharmaceutical contaminants plus caffeine. They also pointed out that the testing methods were not reliable at the concentrations detected and that some may be "false positives". Given that the well source (I believe) is only a small fraction of the water supply, once diluted (mixed) with Bull Run water, these contaminants may not be detected at all in the City's water once it reaches the tap. Of course, we still need to pay attention to this potential problem, but it is much to early to act on this slim bit of information. More sceintific study is warranted. If you think water rates are high now, wait until you have to pay for the sophisticated treatment methods to caputure these low level contaminants. We can't afford it and it isn't warranted.

You may want to go to our website and see what we have to say about it from our local perspective:

Assuming it isn't a false positive, at 18 parts per trillion per liter of water, it would take just over 40,000 years drinking a gallon of water each day to constitute one dose (2 500 mg tablets) of Acetaminophen.

That is not to dismiss or make light of concern, it's just to point out that the numbers, if valid, are extremely low. It is only recently that we have been able to detect substances in the parts per trillion range. Some day soon I am told we will be able to detect in the parts per quadrillion.

David Shaff, Director
Portland Water Bureau


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