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Back in March 2008, the Associated Press reported that 41 million Americans are affected by trace pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supplies. Recently, testing that was prompted by that report shows that the number of affected Americans is actually at least 46 million. The pharmaceuticals generally find their way into the water supply via human excretion. These drugs are often not caught by the treatment plants, and therefore wind up in the drinking water. Twenty-seven cities decided to test their drinking water after the AP stories exposed the issue. Several major cities, including Boston, Phoenix and Seattle reported no detections in their testing. Seventeen cities reported positive results, including Reno, Nevada, Savannah, Georgia, Colorado Springs, Colorado and Huntsville, Alabama. Drugs that have been detected include cholesterol medication, anti-convulsants, tranquilizers and hormones. Some of the cities are unsure of how to interpret this information for their customers. Research has shown that pharmaceutical residues harm some aquatic species and impair human cell function in laboratory settings. However, officials do not want people to be alarmed, and stand by the safety of the water supply. Most cities have not yet tested their water for drugs. That includes the single largest water provider in the country, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Despite insistance on testing from the city council, New York’s DEP decided that testing was unnecessary. Perhaps this recent information will prompt more testing by water providers.

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