Sunday, August 08, 2004

Faits divers -- new benefits of recycling water

"Stay calm everyone, there's Prozac in the drinking water." So reports The Observer today, via Guardian Unlimited. It seems that Brits are consuming Prozac at such an increased pace that the chemical is showing up in tests of groundwater and rivers that supply drinking water.

The discovery raises fresh fears that GPs are overprescribing Prozac, Britain's antidepressant of choice. In the decade up to 2001, overall prescriptions of antidepressants rose from nine million to 24 million a year.

And that has some environmentalists up in arms. One concern, expressed in a recent report by the Environment Agency, is for the potential toxicity of Prozac and its unknown potential impact on not only humans but other animals and the ecosystem.

[T]he precise quantity of Prozac in the nation's water supplies remains unknown. The government's Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) said Prozac was likely to be found in a considerably 'watered down' form that was unlikely to pose a health risk.

Dr Andy Croxford, the Environment's Agency's policy manager for pesticides, told The Observer: 'We need to determine the effects of this low-level, almost continuous discharge.'
European studies have also expressed disquiet over the impact of pharmaceuticals building up in the environment, warning that an effect on wildlife and human health 'cannot be excluded'.

'It is extremely unlikely that there is a risk, as such drugs are excreted in very low concentrations,' a DWI spokesman said. 'Advanced treatment processes installed for pesticide removal are effective in removing drug residues,' he added.

If the Environment Agency is holding meetings with the pharmaceutical industry on human health or the ecosystem, can politicians be far behind?

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat's environment spokesman, said the revelations exposed a failing by the government on an important public health issue. He added that the public should be told if they were inadvertently taking drugs like Prozac.

'This looks like a case of hidden mass medication upon the unsuspecting public,' Baker said. 'It is alarming that there is no monitoring of levels of Prozac and other pharmacy residues in our drinking water.'

Brings a whole new meaning to "drinking the Kool-Aid."


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