Research published last year determined that commercial bottled water in Spain had over 50 pharmaceutically-active chemicals in it, as well as the highly addictive drug nicotine. Is your (or your children's) bottled water polluted with addictive chemicals?
It looks like it very well may be. And we're not talking about nicotine-supplemented water meant to help wean smokers off of nicotine. We're talking the kind of bottled water people drink to avoid the pollutants found in municipal drinking water supplies.
Researchers from the School of Public Health, Immunology and Medical Microbiology of Spain's Rey Juan Carlos University analyzed ten brand of commercially available bottled waters.
The researchers were surprised to learn that the bottled water contained 58 active pharmaceuticals, and five of the ten brands contained significant amounts of nicotine.
The nicotine content of these five brands ranged from 7 nanograms per liter to 15 ng/L. The researchers admitted that these levels were low. However, they added:
Despite the low nicotine concentration measured, the presence of this compound in bottled water still raises concern. Health risk assessment researchers have postulated that the risk to adult healthy humans from oral intake of nicotine at low levels is negligible. However, no studies have been conducted to assess the human health risk of vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and newborns. This population is the target of advertising on the purity and quality characteristics of bottled mineral water.
While this is the first study to document bottled waters containing these chemicals, there are other studies, even newer, confirming identifiable concentrations of nicotine, pharmaceuticals and pesticide chemicals in municipal drinking water.
In the UK for example, the British Geological Survey analyzed and tested ground water and drinking water supplies and also found nicotine along with caffeine and a variety of pharmaceuticals - such as carbamazepine and triclosan.
And many bottled waters are merely municipal tap water, sometimes run through a filtration unit. However, these filtration systems are typically designed to remove macro-pollutants such as lead and arsenic, but they may not filter out micropollutants such as pharmaceuticals and nicotine.
Studies finding pharmaceuticals in drinking water began to be published in the last decade. These were no fluke, however. And newer studies are confirming a growing problem among the world's drinking water supplies.
For example, this year research from the Czech Republic's Department of Water Hygiene at the National Institute of Public Health collected samples from 92 drinking water supplies, feeding half of Czech population.
They found the highest levels of pharmaceuticals to be ibuprofen, carbamazepine, naproxen, and diclofenac. These concentrations ranged from 0.5 to 20.7 nanograms per liter.
Another recent study – from Serbia's University of Novi Sad Medical School - found trace levels of several antibiotics among their drinking water supplies.
Most municipal water treatment facilities do not filter out pharmaceuticals or other microtoxin metabolites from pesticides and other chemicals. New oxidation-driven systems are being tested, but these are not online in most municipalities. Micro-filtration units are also a possibility.
A study last year from Germany's Free University Berlin found that the psychoactive drugs primidone and phenobarbital were found in drinking water supplies. Oxazepam and others were found in wastewater streams - likely soon to be in the drinking water supplies.
Another study from Spain - this from the Pharmacy Department of the University of Valencia - found numerous pharmaceuticals among the region's ground water and drinking water supplies. They found 94% of the sediment and 80% of farming soils were polluted with carbamazepine, acetaminophen and others. They also found much of the drinking water supplies, pharmaceuticals were present at levels as high as 112 nanograms per liter. Soils contained lower concentrations, 15 nanograms per liter.
The researchers also pointed out high levels of fluoroquinolones and ibuprofen are threatening fish and otherwise contaminating the environment.
Meanwhile, last fall Polish researchers found the presence of beta-blockers and beta-agonists among their waterways.
And researchers from Australia's University of Queensland studied waterways and water supplies close by hospitals. They found 57 different pharmaceuticals among these waterways, including many antibiotics – which entered into the system from hospitals and residential areas alike.
Researchers from the Netherlands found 12 pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supplies, as well as seven transformation products (metabolites that form other toxins).
Swedish researchers tested four waterways in the Montreal, Canada region between 2007 and 2009. They found significant levels of caffeine and a number of pharmaceuticals drugs – including carbamazepine, naproxen, gemfibrozil, and trimethoprim. They also found progesterone, estrone, and estradiol, along with the herbicide triazine – with atrazine, deethylatrazine, deisopropylatrazine, simazine, and cyanazine.
Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey's California Water Science Center analyzed ground water supplies that feed numerous drinking water systems throughout California. They found pharmaceuticals affecting two to three percent of the 1231 ground water systems tested. However, in this study only 14 pharmaceutical compounds were tested for, out of hundreds possible. And out of these 14 tested, seven were found in concentrations that were equal or greater to detection limits. These seven included acetaminophen, caffeine, carbamazepine, the highly addictive codeine, the caffeine metabolite p-xanthine, and the antibiotics sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim. The samples also contained various pesticides, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and others.
The research found that ground water supplies in the Los Angeles area were much more likely to contain pharmaceuticals, and contain higher levels of them.
It should be noted that several brands of commercial bottled waters (and many other foods and beverages containing water) are packaged in the Los Angeles area.
- González Alonso S, Valcárcel Y, Montero JC, Catalá M. Nicotine occurrence in bottled mineral water: analysis of 10 brands of water in Spain. Sci Total Environ. 2012 Feb 1;416:527-31.
- Rodríguez-Álvarez T, Rodil R, Quintana JB, Triñanes S, Cela R. Oxidation of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with aqueous permanganate. Water Res. 2013 Jun 1;47(9):3220-30.
- Kozisek F, Pomykacova I, Jeligova H, Cadek V, Svobodova V. Survey of human pharmaceuticals in drinking water in the Czech Republic. J Water Health. 2013 Mar;11(1):84-97.
- Milić N, Milanović M, Letić NG, Sekulić MT, Radonić J, Mihajlović I, Miloradov MV. Occurrence of antibiotics as emerging contaminant substances in aquatic environment. Int J Environ Health Res. 2012 Oct 16.
- Wu Q, Shi H, Adams CD, Timmons T, Ma Y. Oxidative removal of selected endocrine-disruptors and pharmaceuticals in drinking water treatment systems, and identification of degradation products of triclosan. Sci Total Environ. 2012 Nov 15;439:18-25.
- Hass U, Duennbier U, Massmann G. Occurrence and distribution of psychoactive compounds and their metabolites in the urban water cycle of Berlin (Germany). Water Res. 2012 Nov 15;46(18):6013-22.
- Vazquez-Roig P, Andreu V, Blasco C, Picó Y. Risk assessment on the presence of pharmaceuticals in sediments, soils and waters of the Pego-Oliva Marshlands (Valencia, eastern Spain). Sci Total Environ. 2012 Dec 1;440:24-32.
- Caban M, Migowska N, Stepnowski P, Kwiatkowski M, Kumirska J. Matrix effects and recovery calculations in analyses of pharmaceuticals based on the determination of β-blockers and β-agonists in environmental samples. J Chromatogr A. 2012 Oct 5;1258:117-27.
- Bäuerlein PS, Ter Laak TL, Hofman-Caris RC, de Voogt P, Droge ST. Removal of charged micropollutants from water by ion-exchange polymers -- effects of competing electrolytes. Water Res. 2012 Oct 15;46(16):5009-18.
- Le Corre KS, Ort C, Kateley D, Allen B, Escher BI, Keller J. Consumption-based approach for assessing the contribution of hospitals towards the load of pharmaceutical residues in municipal wastewater. Environ Int. 2012 Sep 15;45:99-111.
- de Jongh CM, Kooij PJ, de Voogt P, ter Laak TL. Screening and human health risk assessment of pharmaceuticals and their transformation products in Dutch surface waters and drinking water. Sci Total Environ. 2012 Jun 15;427-428:70-7.
- Ferrer I, Thurman EM. Analysis of 100 pharmaceuticals and their degradates in water samples by liquid chromatography/quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry. J Chromatogr A. 2012 Oct 12;1259:148-57.
- Daneshvar A, Aboulfadl K, Viglino L, Broséus R, Sauvé S, Madoux-Humery AS, Weyhenmeyer GA, Prévost M. Evaluating pharmaceuticals and caffeine as indicators of fecal contamination in drinking water sources of the Greater Montreal region. Chemosphere. 2012 Jun;88(1):131-9.
- González S, López-Roldán R, Cortina JL. Presence and biological effects of emerging contaminants in Llobregat River basin: a review. Environ Pollut. 2012 Feb;161:83-92.
- Stuart M, Lapworth D, Crane E, Hart A. Review of risk from potential emerging contaminants in UK groundwater. Sci Total Environ. 2012 Feb 1;416:1-21.
- Qiao T, Yu Z, Zhang X, Au DW. Occurrence and fate of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in drinking water in southern China. J Environ Monit. 2011 Nov;13(11):3097-103.
- Sanderson H. Presence and risk assessment of pharmaceuticals in surface water and drinking water. Water Sci Technol. 2011;63(10):2143-8.
- Fram MS, Belitz K. Occurrence and concentrations of pharmaceutical compounds in groundwater used for public drinking-water supply in California. Sci Total Environ. 2011 Aug 15;409(18):3409-17.
Featured image by Liz West