Drug residues in drinking water are a growing problem in the opinion of environmental experts. Ten active ingredients - including bezafibrate (to lower blood lipid levels), diclofenac (analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs), ibuprofen (painkillers), antibiotics and X-ray contrast media - have been repeatedly detected, including various painkillers and X-ray contrast agents, says the toxicologist Dr. med. Hermann Dieter from the Federal Environment Agency. The famous theorem of the conservation of the masses of the French chemist Lavoisier gets a special meaning when it comes to the most important food: Nothing is lost, but increasingly strains our drinking water.
Medicines enter the water cycle in many ways
Example Diclofenac: Approximately 90 tons of the painkiller are consumed annually in Germany. However, 70 percent of the body's active ingredient leaves naturally - and ends up in wastewater. Thus, about 63 tons of diclofenac enter the water cycle via the urine. If a person drinks an average of two liters of water a day during his life, he consumes over 50, 000 liters of water in 80 years. How many drug residues he takes up, can hardly calculate.
You know nothing about possible reactions, meet all the arrears of approximately 3, 000 in Europe approved drugs on each other. However, it is known from the animal world that in fish, for example, who live at treatment plant outlets, sex changes were observed after estrogen intake (ethinylestradiol from birth control pills).
However, a problem in the opinion of the Federal Environment Agency is that ignorant or overly comfortable consumers simply dispose of unused or expired medicines in the toilet. And another problem arises thanks to the intensive animal husbandry: Due to the manure treatment of meadows and fields an additional burden with veterinary medicines - antibiotics, hormones, etc. In the fish farming antibiotics and vermifuge are introduced directly into surface waters.
Research needs available
Although the proven resources in drinking water are between 100 and one million times lower than the prescribed daily dose, explains Dieter. However, that does not mean that they are harmless: "A quantification of the risk on a scientifically sound basis is not possible yet, and I definitely need more research."
Above all, the effect that could arise if consumers for many years at the same time take several active ingredients in small concentrations on the drinking water, is still unclear. Improved analytical methods would probably in the future, residues of other medicines come to light. As life expectancy increases and more and more prescription medicines become available, according to the toxicologist, the number of medicines taken will also increase.