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Posted on: Thursday, April 27, 2006
Cocaine in the water
public_health email to the editor
By Darrel Crain, D.C.

It's the water - and a lot more

Fred Hoyle wrote: "Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards." His comment demonstrates a typically American, classically human, endlessly optimistic faith in the ability of new technology to solve all our problems like magic. The big problem remains all the new problems we create through using and developing the new technology.

Benjamin Franklin, for example, is credited with being among the first to develop waste management technology. "Drag the trash to the middle of the river before you let go of it. Don't just throw it in the water from the riverbank!" He probably called out instructions just such as these to his slaves, perhaps even wading out with them in his excitement about this new technology.

The basic strategy of waste management, "Put that garbage somewhere we don't have to see it or smell it," has not changed over the years, although our technology for dispersing it has changed considerably. Do you suppose Franklin had any idea his technology would evolve to the point that today's society's toxic leftovers would be found over the entire surface of the planet, including the drinking water?

Archaeologists have always been known to check the waste of societies for important clues about life. Now they've got company. A recent news article, describing new activity by government scientists, caught my eye. These federal investigators in white coats have developed a taste for waste-testing. They have begun the fascinating task of studying America's wastewater, intent on finding out just how much cocaine people might be snarfling up their noses.

Cocaine, of course, can pass through the human body and still end up as cocaine in the sewage. This can also be said of antibiotics, pain medications, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory drugs, cholesterol lowering drugs, blood-pressure lowering drugs, anticonvulsants, cancer-fighting and hormone replacement drugs, and on and on.

Why do you suppose the government only wants to know about the cocaine, though? Why not compare cocaine levels to say, antibiotic levels? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to measure all the drugs, legal or not. How much used cocaine is safe in American waterways compared to used antidepressants?

Even after passing through water filtration plants, tap water in cities all over the world has been found to contain the entire array of modern pharmaceuticals. To the list of toxic heavy metals, PCBs, engine emissions and fluoride wastes in our municipal water, we must now add the entire pharmacopoeia.

The chlorine treatment of wastewater creates another layer of difficulty by splitting drug molecules into new molecules, some of them more toxic than their parents.

Do you find this troubling? Don't worry, be happy! A spokesman from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) has wisely assured the public that there are no "appreciable impacts on the aquatic environment" that can be linked to low concentrations of pharmaceuticals in the water.

How about, "cumulative, insidious, adverse impacts" on aquatic ecosystems, including a decline in rates of reproduction and survival of animals in contact with the water, according to scientists with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?

We have also been assured that there are "no appreciable human health risks." This brings to mind the Ashanti proverb, "One falsehood spoils a thousand truths."

The operative word in their statement is "appreciable." Perhaps the definition of an appreciable risk to a drug company is simply a risk whose hemorrhaging of corporate profits due to legal death and damages claims can no longer be ignored.

Many scientists perceive real risks to humans posed by constant exposure to recycled drugs. These likely involve developmental and reproductive changes, just as we are seeing in other vertebrates around the globe.

"We're concerned [these pharmaceuticals] are not only having an effect on aquatic organisms, but on human populations, as well," wrote scientist Rebecca Klaper of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

Despite all this, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seems in a big hurry to put its seal of approval on loads more drugs day after day. I don't know, maybe it is time to turn the whole drug approval process over to the EPA and see if they can protect us any better. After all, shouldn't the drug companies have to submit an Environmental Impact Report each time they apply for a new drug, just like the other gross polluters?

When used medicine gains entrance to your body every day, the price of admission is a loss of vital energy. Virtually all drugs, recycled or not, have the tendency to cause a power loss in every last one of the several hundred trillion cells you call home: your body.

Cells, you may recall, actually do the work of creating the life inside you. Each cell is a tiny factory with an important job to do. Each one carries its own power supply, called mitochondria. When chemicals come in contact with your cells, the ability of mitochondria to recharge is reduced, a loss of power and energy at the cellular level.

As Peter Newman correctly pointed out, "Power tends to connect; absolute power connects absolutely."

Your cells crave absolute power to get their job done. It is time to get on with life and filter out all this depressing news. I have faith in some of our current technology to help us out. As Ben Franklin also said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

With a bit of planning, we can filter out the recycled drugs and other nasty stuff from our water before we drink it, shower in it, and wash clothes, plates, forks and knives in it.

I'll drink to that. Make mine a triple-filtered, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet-light exposed glass of pure water.


Dr. Darrel Crain
Family Chiropractor
Natural Health Writer
President, CCA San Diego County District
619-445-0100

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