[Pharmwaste] Pharmaceuticals, other non-traditional chemicals, found in southern California drinking water, scientist says

Tenace, Laurie Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Tue Apr 9 07:51:51 EDT 2013


A wide mix of modern chemicals, including popular prescription drugs, chemical constituents of plastics, and ingredients of sunscreen, were found in both raw water and treated drinking water at five water treatment plants in southern California, according a research paper presented in New Orleans Monday during national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The emerging study of pharmaceuticals and other non-traditional chemical compounds and their discovery in drinking water and wastewater that enters rivers and streams was the focus of a series of scientific papers presented at the conference

The California sampling found measureable amounts of butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA, a chemical used to preserve food; phthalates, a family of chemicals found in plastics; the common pain reliever ibuprofen; triclosan, an antibacterial compound commonly used in dishwashing liquids; and several chemicals used in sunscreens.

Gregory Loraine, a research scientist with Dynaflow Inc., said the minute amounts of the chemicals measured in the raw and treated water were highest from August through September, the driest months of the years. Los Angeles and San Diego average only about 10 inches of water a year, while the valleys average between 15 and 20 inches of rain a year.

During that time, a significant portion of the water used in Los Angeles and San Diego, where the water plants are located, comes from the Sacramento and San Joachim valleys. And because it's the driest time of the year, as much as 45 percent of that water already has undergone treatment in wastewater treatment plants in those two valleys before being delivered by canal to southern California.

A portion of the water also comes from Colorado River, shipped across the desert in pipelines and canals. That water, however, has a smaller percentage coming from sewage treatment plants, he said.

Loraine said a study of similar chemical constituents in effluent from sewage treatment plants found about the same levels of chemicals, which he said could indicate that any reduction in their levels occurring at the water treatment plants is occurring because of natural biological processes, rather than as a result of traditional mechanical on chemical treatment methods.

Another study measured the chemical constituents of sewage running from dormitories housing mostly first-year students at the University of Puget Sound, in Tacoma, Wash., to determine whether they were misusing Ritalin, a prescription drug, or Adderall, a version of amphetamine, both of which are prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Daniel Burgard, a chemistry professor at the university, said he designed the experiment to determine whether students were using the two drugs to increase their study skills, especially during periods when midterm and final tests were being administered at school.

Burgard was able to obtain information from the university on how many of the 476 students in the dormitory had prescriptions of either of the drugs, without identifying the students. There were only 15 taking some form of amphetamine and nine taking Ritalin.

An analysis of wastewater from the sewage pipe immediately outside the dormitories found a significant increase in the use of Adderall during those periods for both the fall and spring semesters. Using measurements of the amount of creatine, an organic acid in muscle tissue, in urine, Burgard estimated that as many as 110 of the dormitory residents were using one or the other of the drugs.

"The amphetamine levels appear higher during times of academic stress. The Ritalin levels do not appear to trend with academic stress," he said.

Laurie Tenace
Environmental Specialist III
Waste Reduction Section
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Rd., MS 4555
Tallahassee FL 32399-2400
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Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
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