Western Environmental
Testing Laboratory
Looking out for Pharmaceuticals in Water Quality

Water quality testing is constantly changing and evolving to keep up with new and changing potential contaminants – and at WETLAB we work hard to insure we have the knowledge and the equipment to keep up.
For example, beyond the usual suspects of industrial and agricultural pollutants, pharmaceuticals and personal care products are making their way into the drinking water supply in some places around the world – not just from manufacturing but from what goes down average people’s drains and what’s flushed down their toilets.

Incompletely metabolized hormones, antibiotics and other over-the-counter and prescription drugs have been detected in sewage treatment plants, rivers, lakes and aquifers.
Nitro musks – a fragrant or preservative component in cosmetics have also been detected and are of concern due to possible negative environmental impacts, and sun screen agents have been found in lakes and even fish.
Researchers Christian G Daughton and Thomas A. Ternes described the amount of pharmaceuticals and personal care products going into the environment each year is similar to the amount of pesticides, in fact, according to The University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

As of 2008, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority hasn’t reported any pharmaceutical contamination in Reno drinking water – testing for 31 compounds at a sensitivity of one part per trillion, “or one drop in 1,000 Olympic-size swimming pools,” according to tmwa.com.

But it’s an issue that water quality specialists like WETLAB need to keep an eye on, as more and more such contaminants are being found around the country and around the world.
A United States Geological Survey nation-wide assessment has found caffeine, codeine, cholesterol-lowering agents, anti-depressants, and estrogen replacement drugs in tested waters.
This has already had measurable affects on aquatic life – for example, British research found that estrogen has deformed reproductive systems in fish, according to The University of Arizona.

But the effects on human’s aren’t as clear, according to the university document, with some experts believing levels are generally too low to pose a risk to people, while others believe long-term exposure could  potentially cause problems from interfering with hormone production to the creation of more antibiotic-resistant disease-causing bacteria.

Arid western regions, where streams can be more reliant on effluent, could be more susceptible, which is why water quality monitoring will continue to be critical in our region.