[Pharmwaste] Meeting on drugs in water at NC Biotechnology Center

Tenace, Laurie Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Wed Nov 12 11:43:06 EST 2008


Looking at drugs in water
Experts gather in the Triangle to assess a public health question

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK - Despite rising fear -- and rhetoric -- about the
presence of pharmaceuticals in drinking water, there is actually very little
evidence of whether there are health risks related to the issue.
That was one main message from 150 researchers and public health experts who
huddled at the N.C. Biotechnology Center this week. The two-day conference,
the first by a collaborative group of Triangle environmental health experts,
was an attempt to answer some of the questions being raised by regulators,
scientists and lawmakers.

Drawing on data collected by water treatment plants and federal agencies such
as the U.S. Geological Survey, The Associated Press in March reported that
treated drinking water in Philadelphia, northern New Jersey, San Francisco
and Washington, D.C., tested positive for traces of prescription drugs,
including antibiotics, mood stabilizers and sex hormones.

But more and better data is needed to figure out which pharmaceutical
chemicals are likely to cause the most harm to the environment and people and
how contaminants get into the water.

"We cannot afford to have the whole industry destroyed by a couple of bad
actors," said Kenneth Olden, chairman of the newly formed Research Triangle
Environmental Health Collaborative. The group counts the National Institute
of Environmental Health Sciences, the University of North Carolina, Duke
University, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and research institutes
in the Triangle among its supporters.

"We want to provide leadership," said Olden, the former director of the
NIEHS' toxicology program. "The expertise is here in North Carolina."

"There's been a lot of frustration that we've been talking about this for as
long as we have and nothing is done," said Doug Finan of GlaxoSmithKline's
environmental health and safety regulatory affairs.

On Tuesday, conference participants came up with several recommendations,
which they plan to present to state and federal lawmakers and publish in a
peer-reviewed journal:

* The EPA monitors pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals for possible
harm. Researchers have long known that pharmaceutical chemicals also show up
in the water, but none is on the EPA monitoring list. Lawmakers need to
determine which regulatory agency should be in charge of testing water for
pharmaceutical chemicals and their byproducts.

"We can't measure everything all the time," said Damian Shea of the N.C.
State Department of Biology.

* Consumers need to know what to do with unused medicine. Physicians and
pharmacists should be tapped as advocates to prescribe and fill only as much
medicine as needed and tell consumers how to dispose properly of leftovers. 

sabine.vollmer at newsobserver.comor 919-829-8992

Laurie Tenace
Environmental Specialist
Waste Reduction Section
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Rd., MS 4555
Tallahassee FL 32399-2400
P: 850.245.8759
F: 850.245.8811

Mercury: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/categories/mercury/default.htm 

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