Last week at Green Prophet, we wrote about how an increase in breast size may be connected to hormones in the water supply. Estrogens in the environment or in our food are implicated in lower sperm counts and higher rate of breast cancers, and antibiotics in the environment could increase the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Israeli lawmaker Dov Chanin, a member of the committee on the environment, is trying to do something about it. The first target is extra, unused drugs that consumers throw into the trash or down the toilet. Ninety percent of the active material in drugs returns to the water system via landfills or sewage.
Whether medications are thrown into the garbage or consumed by patients, they are the source of organic micro-pollutants. Because water treatment systems don’t yet have the technology to filter them out, Israel’s high rate of water recycling for agriculture could be leading to higher and higher concentrations of micro-pollutants. Ultimately humans and animals consume them in the local food and water.
On January 2011, representatives of environmental groups, hospitals, the water board and the health ministry met at the Knesset to discuss the issue. Hospital waste, difficult and expensive to sort, is another source of organic micro-pollutants.
No one in the world has yet developed a standard to measure a safe amount of these micro-pollutants in the water, and the committee recommended more investigation on the topic.
In the meantime, Chanin proposed a law requiring drug stores to collect unused medications for destruction or storage.
In Israel, part of the problem of unused medications is alleviated by private organizations who collect unused and unexpired medications for the poor. Also, since estrogen seems to be such a concern, perhaps other forms of non-hormonal birth control should be encouraged.
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