Today the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security, and Water Quality will focus on pharmaceuticals in our nation’s waters. I thank the witnesses for being here.
As we will hear from several of the witnesses today, the issue of pharmaceuticals in our nation’s waters is not a new one. I understand that the EPA first reported pharmaceuticals in US waters in 1975.
With technological advances in the last few decades, there have been improvements in analytical methods that have led to the ability to detect trace concentrations in our waters to the parts per trillion (ppt). The ability to measure a tiny concentration of these compounds in the water does not necessarily mean that each of them will be harmful to people. It is likely that most of them would not have adverse health affects on the general population. Some studies have shown that pharmaceuticals measured in the water supply are at very low concentrations that are millions of times lower than a medical dose and at levels that do not pose an acute threat to public health.
However, I do share concern about certain pharmaceuticals in drinking water supplies – endocrine disruptors, for example. There is research that suggests these impact aquatic species, and we should look very closely at any potential long term impacts on people.
Unfortunately, there appears to be very little information about the chronic health effects of trace concentrations of pharmaceuticals in our waters on people, especially for those who are exposed to them for long periods of time. It is important that we better understand what the actual effects are on the public health in the long term.
We need more health effects research on this topic before making sweeping regulatory changes. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses who have experience with the research that has been conducted to date.