Drinking the Drugs we take!
Sept. 30, 2014, Toronto, ON… It is a known fact that some chemicals remain in the ecosystem after
treatment at both the water treatment plant and the wastewater treatment plant. These persistent
chemicals come from pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) that get flushed into the
Some of these are synthetic drugs and proteins are becoming concentrated in waste water streams.
What makes this more concerning is that they are soluble in water. Other emerging chemicals are
deemed natural but the natural environment has no traditional way to oxidize or break them down. The
end result is that these chemicals are persistent in our environment and make it back to the waters we
In a proactive attempt to address the consumer concerns of emerging chemicals, there are a number of
things to consider.
First, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada are working diligently on developing
the safety criteria for pharmaceuticals and emerging chemicals in water.
Second, we are not talking in parts per million safe concentrations but field concentrations of parts per
billion or trillion. This type of work is not easy given that some of these compounds were not measurable
in our water until just recently.
Third, while there are scientific evaluations to be done to determine the safe levels, there are also
standards to be developed to evaluate water treatment technologies that can fill this role and need,
effectively and safely.
In 2008, National Sanitation Foundation (NSF international) and the water treatment industry got
together to address this by creating what is now called NSF Standard 401. This standard evaluates
drinking water treatment units for reduction performance of some 15 emerging and precursor chemicals.
These reduction limits and claims for the chemicals listed in the standard are not health based claims
but reduction limits based on the best science today.
In the summer of 2014, NSF International announced that it had developed and published the first
American National Standard that validates the effectiveness of water treatment devices designed to
reduce trace levels of emerging contaminants in drinking water.
The standard, named NSF/ANSI 401: Drinking Water Treatment Units – Emerging Compounds/
Incidental Contaminants, addresses the ability of a water treatment device to remove up to 15
contaminants from drinking water. Types of contaminants include some pharmaceuticals, over-thecounter
medications, herbicides, pesticides and chemicals used in manufacturing, such as bisphenol A
This is the first step in managing the issue.