Monday, January 14, 2013
A new agreement between four federal agencies aimed at improving collaboration on issues related to pharmaceuticals in drinking water is now underway. Under the agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Agriculture (USDA), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Department of Interior (DOI) will share research on the causes of pharmaceutical pollution and its effects on human health. The agencies will also conduct joint studies to investigate the impact of pharmaceuticals and related contaminants on the environment.
The collaboration is expected to help the EPA gain access to data needed to determine whether a pharmaceutical should be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA has worked with other federal agencies in the past to collect this data, but always informally. This collaboration comes after a 2011 recommendation by the Government Accountability Office called for a formal mechanism for coordinating research on pharmaceuticals that pose the greatest threat to public health.
Pharmaceuticals can enter drinking water from several pathways, including discharges from wastewater facilities and agricultural runoff that carries manure into nearby lakes and rivers. Flushing medicines down the toilet or throwing them in the trash can also result in increased levels of pharmaceutical chemicals in water supplies.
For more information on the agreement, visit http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/ppcp/upload/mou_pharm_drinking_water12182012.pdf.
Written by: Anjanette Riley, IISG Science Writer