Drugs in drinking water

waterWater treatment systems fail to eliminate many illegal drugs, according to new research from McGill University. This probably has no effect on human health, but could have an impact on fish.

Good news: The unit of ozonation as Montreal built its treatment plant in Rivière-des-Prairies water will eliminate these molecules. “We are studying since 2008 illicit drugs in wastewater,” says lead author of the study published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, chemical engineer Viviane Yargeau, McGill. “We wanted to use it to estimate consumption, but also to evaluate the performance of treatments of conventional and advanced water. It raised the question of the persistence of drugs in the environment and impact on the environment and water quality. ”

Biodegradation of water with conventional treatments varies from 10 to 90%. Researchers have already reviewed Ontario treatment plants, but they are doing the same analysis in Quebec. Among the known drug, there were no traces of ecstasy (MDMA) or heroin, probably because they are not consumed. Drugs used as a recreational drug, such as fentanyl, were analyzed. Are there any risks to human health? “No, not at these low doses then,” replies Ms. Yargeau.

Even for infants? “Not if we take each drug separately, says chemical engineer. If one considers the drug cocktail of drugs and chemicals, perhaps. I’m not comfortable saying that there is no impact. But do not do sensationalism. I drink, drinking water. We can not eliminate all our exposures to chemicals and I do not think drinking water is the main source. ”

Impact on fish

And fish? “There are no studies specifically on drugs, but there is for drugs whose mechanism of action is not so distant from that of drugs, said Ms. Yargeau. It should therefore be expected to impact on fish. “There should not be any risk for those who eat it, however, because the impacts on fish are generally not due to bioaccumulation of pharmaceuticals in fish tissue.

The new water treatment technologies solve the problem, including ozonation unit that Montreal will install by 2018 at its plant in Rivière-des-Prairies, at a cost of 100 million, according to McGill researcher.

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