Is Lake Erie and Our Drinking Water Being Contaminated with Psychiatric Drugs?

Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Mon, 06/26/2006 - 13:31.

I saw the following article in the PD "Colleges React to Drug Needs"
and it got me thinking about how the increasing number of people now taking psychiatric medications is effecting our water supply here in NEO. I read something a few years ago about concern in England because psychiatric medications are making there way into the drinking water (there too a huge percentage of the population takes prescription drugs for mental health). What have you heard about these chemicals and their effects on our water supply? Has Lake Erie been tested? Is there a way to filter out such chemicals? Please post your comments and concerns.

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Prozac in Drinking Water - Newborns suffer Withdrawal

Thanks for pointing this out - I wonder if a Brita Filter can get Prozac out of our water?

Prozac in Drinking Water / Prozac in Streams Hurt Frogs fish / Newborns suffer Withdrawal

Tue, 10 Aug 2004

An article in the UK Observer--"Stay calm everyone, there's Prozac in the drinking water" (below) -- reports that British environmentalists are calling for an "urgent investigation into the revelations, describing the build-up of the antidepressant [Prozac] as 'hidden mass medication'.

The article was forwarded to me by at least 12 concerned, knowledgeable people from the UK and US--their concern is justified. The UK Environment Agency has found that Prozac is building up both in river systems and groundwater used for drinking supplies. This is a direct result of the inordinately high quantity of antidepressants consumed and excreted into the environment.

In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey tested 139 rivers in 30 states and found that 80 percent of streams sampled by showed evidence of drugs, hormones, steroids and personal care products such as soaps and perfumes.

In October, 2003, US scientists reported that Prozac and other pharmaceuticals were polluting US streams and affecting the development of fish and other wild life. According to the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC, more than 61 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were prescribed by U.S. doctors in 2001. As pointed out, because prescriptions like anti-depressants are for chronic conditions, patients often take them for months and years at a time, making them more likely to build up in wastewater

CNN reported: "Researchers are working on several fronts to determine how big the problem is and just what short- and long-term ecological effects there might be on wildlife. Bryan Brooks, a toxicologist at Baylor University in Texas, discovered evidence of Prozac, an anti-depressant, in the brains, livers, and muscles of bluegill, caught downstream from the Pecan Creek Water Reclamation Plant in Denton, Texas, near Dallas"

Marsha Black, an aquatic toxicologist at the University of Georgia found that low levels of common anti-depressants, including Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Celexa, cause development problems in fish, and metamorphosis delays in frogs.

Frogs, fish and pharmaceuticals a troubling brew:

Prozac, other drugs detected in streams and their inhabitants

By Marsha Walton

Two tapdpoles after 57 days of development in the lab. The one on the right, which has yet to sprout limbs, was exposed to fluoxetine, also known as Prozac.

See also: Fish on Prozac? How depressing! Antidepressant ingredient detected in Texas lake water Dallas, MSNBC, Oct. 23 2003

Newborn human infants are also affected by unwanted drug effects.

Newborns have suffered from severe drug withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants that their mothers were prescribed. Since 1993, there have been numerous reports about adverse drug effects suffered by infants born to women who during pregnancy took Prozac or another of the SSRIs. See:

In August 2003, an Australian alert was issued against prescribing Prozac to pregnant women or to breastfeeding women because the drug could expose their babies to withdrawal and toxic effects. No such alert was issued by the FDA.

See: Alert over taking Prozac during pregnancy. Sydney Morning Herald, August 4, 2003

In April 2004, a report by the National Toxicology Program--Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, indicated there was reason for concern about the toxic effects of Prozac on the developing human embryo. See:

On June 9, 2004, an FDA advisory committee and FDA's medical reviewer recommended that the labels of all SSRIs and SNRIs be changed to include a warning about the adverse effects suffered by newborn babies. The committee urged the FDA inform not just physicians, but pregnant women about the potential hazards these drugs pose for their developing babies. FDA had received hundreds of adverse event reports linking the drugs to jitteriness, respiratory depression, seizures, and other reactions in newborns whose mothers took the drugs in their third trimester.

See: Todd Zwillich. FDA urged to carry stronger pregnancy warnings on SSRIs. Drug Topics, Government/ Law Jul. 12, 2004;148:58.

Given the extensive body of evidence that has recently been uncovered, demonstrating that antidepressants can have serious adverse effects n children, adolescents and developing embryos, the inappropriate escalation in prescribing antidepressants (and other psychotropic drugs) for children violates the Hippocratic Oath - First, do no harm - and goes against science-based medicine.

The FDA has been dragging its feet for years. Only after evidence of SSRI harm leaked to the public, only after the British regulatory authority acted to protect children from unnecessary risk, did the FDA even bother analyzing the pediatric clinical trial data that had been submitted to the agency by drug manufacturers. In August 2003, Wyeth took the unusual step of issuing a warning to health care providers--seven months before the FDA issued a class warning about suicidality and SSRI and SNRI antidepressants. See Wyeth letter:

Indeed, FDA attempted to suppress the report and recommendations of its own medical expert: Dr. Andrew Mosholder, found a twofold increased risk of suicidal behavior in children who tested an SSRI in clinical trials compared to those on placebo. His findings and recommendations--to issue warnings to physicians and parents--contradicted drug industry marketing goals.

The FDA's attempted suppression of Dr. Mosholder's report and recommendations is an illustration of the collision between conflicting interests: Senior FDA officials abused their authority when they attempted to shield industry's financial interests rather than act in the public interest--to protect children's lives.

See: Drug report barred by FDA Scientist links antidepressants to suicide in kids by Rob Waters, Special to The San Chronicle Sunday, February 1, 2004 at:

As noted in the British Medical Journal, it was not until the Alliance for Human Research Protection posted the report on our website that the Mosholder report became available to the physicians and the public. AHRP did so, in order to ensure that fewer children would be put in harm's way. See: Secret US report surfaces on antidepressants in children. BMJ.

See Dr. Andrew Mosholder's embargoed report at:

On June 28, 2004, Wyeth with the FDA issued a new MedWatch drug Alert to healthcare professionals, noting: "Neonates exposed to Effexor, other SNRIs (Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors), or SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), late in the third trimester of pregnancy have developed complications requiring prolonged hospitalization, respiratory support, and tube feeding."

The Wall Street Journal reported that a second analysis of the data was conducted by another FDA expert in collaboration with Columbia University, whom the FDA had contracted. Under the shadow of NYS Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer's lawsuit, there was little opportunity to "massage the data." The second analysis of the pediatric SSRI clinical trials corroborated Dr. Mosholder's findings: SSRIs pose a twofold increased suicide risk for children / adolescents compared to those given a placebo.

See: FDA Revisits Issue Of Antidepressants for Youths New Analysis May Pressure Agency to Set Limit on Use Because of Suicide Risk By Anna Wilde Mathews. The Wall Street Journal August 5, 2004, p. A1

Since the placebo effect is harmless and costs nothing, why are children being assaulted with toxic drugs that put them at increased risk of harm?

Instead of restricting the use of these drugs in children­as Britain and the European Union have done--US mental health policies seem Hell bent on increasing the use of psychotropic drugs in children and adults. The ever expanding US psychiatric industry is churning out one after another dubious "finding" based on the DSM IV diagnostic manual to promote the expansion of mental health services and increased drug use.

According to a survey published in the July issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, "31 million people, or 15 percent of the adult population, suffer from at least one type of personality disorder." An example cited: "Miserly spending habits are tied in with the obsessive-compulsive personality. They have a compulsion to hang onto money."

The last mental disorders list that I saw, called "the urge to shop" a disorderŠ.whatever your predilection, expect some mental health professional to determine-- it's a disorder.

The "study" is not a Monty Python spoof. The author is chief of the Laboratory of Epidemiology and Biometry at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - which means taxpayers paid for it. Such psychiatric expansionist "findings" don't even merit the classification of pseudo-science - this is pure and simple turf expansionism. See: Personality Disorders Common in U.S. Survey finds 31 million American adults have at least one By Kathleen Doheny HealthDay Reporter.

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
Tel: 212-595-8974,,1278760,00.html
The Observer
Stay calm everyone, there's Prozac in the drinking water
Mark Townsend
Sunday August 8, 2004

It should make us happy, but environmentalists are deeply alarmed: Prozac, the anti-depression drug, is being taken in such large quantities that it can now be found in Britain's drinking water. Environmentalists are calling for an urgent investigation into the revelations, describing the build-up of the antidepressant as 'hidden mass medication'. The Environment Agency has revealed that Prozac is building up both in river systems and groundwater used for drinking supplies.

The government's chief environment watchdog recently held a series of meetings with the pharmaceutical industry to discuss any repercussions for human health or the ecosystem. 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.

A recent report by the Environment Agency concluded Prozac could be potentially toxic in the water table and said the drug was a 'potential concern'. However, the 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.' 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.' Experts say that Prozac finds its way into rivers and water systems from treated sewage water. Some believe the drugs could affect their reproductive ability.

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.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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Alarming Information You Posted

The information you posted and the links are fascinating and alarming! I think, after considering your comment, there is a need for an entirely new level of awareness of what you are doing when you take prescription drugs. Other than pregnant women, few people who take prescription drugs think of the chemicals having an effect on anyone beyond themselves and that is clearly not the reality.

Great Lakes: Drug pollution/Now the fish are taking Prozac

Editorial: Drug pollution/Now the fish are taking Prozac
Minneapolis Star Tribune

Go ahead and giggle, if you like, at the news of Prozac being found in Texas bluegills. It's hard to be entirely somber when faced with fish on antidepressants, and the chief researcher invited some levity when he answered the inevitable reporter's question by saying the drug appeared to relax them:

"Maybe it makes you a happy fish and you're kind of hanging out. But how does that influence your ability to capture prey? Do you instantly become candy for largemouth bass?" and so on.

Still, there is an obviously serious side to what seems the first confirmed instance of pharmaceutical pollutants accumulating in the tissues of wildlife.

Pollution of groundwater from drugs and so-called personal care products is only beginning to get the attention it deserves from researchers and regulators. The presence of these chemicals and their metabolites has been known for years, but now the evidence of impacts is beginning to emerge.

One study suggests that fluoxetine hydrochloride, known commercially as Prozac, retards the development of fish and delays metamorphosis in frogs. Other work suggests that estrogen-related chemicals are "feminizing" male fish by altering their reproductive anatomy, and that antibiotic residues are raising the resistance of waterborne germs. While nobody has yet demonstrated a direct threat to human health, there are concerns about the vulnerability of children to very low doses of such chemicals--traces of which may turn up in tap water.

Risk assessment is in the early stages, but much more is known about the scope of contamination: It is widespread and rising. Where 20 years ago it was a curiosity to find traces of caffeine, nicotine and aspirin in wastewater, scores of compounds are now routinely detected.

Leading the list are antidepressants, birth-control hormones, over-the-counter pain relievers, insect repellents, antibiotics, disinfectants, deodorant fragrances, anti-cholesterol drugs--a mirror of modern medicine and lifestyle. A sampling last year by the U.S. Geological Survey found such compounds in 80 percent of the 139 waterways it tested in an effort, perhaps belated, to establish benchmarks for monitoring.

These materials follow obvious pathways into the environment -- they pass through human bodies, and unused portions are flushed and pitched without any precaution. Large animal-feeding operations contribute heavy loads of antibiotic and hormone residue. Substantial amounts may be discharged by manufacturers as well.

Some European countries have been working for a decade to curtail such pollution and upgrade water treatment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration are just beginning to consider how to address the problem. But the initial findings of harm to wildlife are leading some scientists to advocate for better wastewater treatment -- reconstructed wetlands appear to provide especially effective filtration -- and to ask whether drugs and cosmetics could be formulated in ways that allow them to break down more quickly or thoroughly.

Those seem to be prudent avenues for inquiry. The alternative is to wait for some clear harbinger of disaster before taking any remedial action. That approach has been tried many times before, of course -- and if you think for very long about the consequences, you could become a candidate for Prozac.


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Our water may not even be safe to bathe in -- let alone drink!

I was not even considering that  unfiltered tap water may be unsafe to bathe in! Check out this article "Whose Drugs Are You Taking," author Lena Sanchez  sites several studies that make you seriously consider how the most mundane aspects of your life might be risking your health. We are really destroying our environment! Ever since Americans have had indoor plumbing its been down the toilet and out of mind. Now everything we have been flushing for over a century has come back to haunt us.
A 2000 U.S. government analysis showed the nations
waterways are awash in chemicals used in beauty aids,
medications, cleaners, and foods. Among the substances
found were caffeine, contraceptives, painkillers, insect
repellent, perfumes, and nicotine. How much? All they know
for sure it’s unacceptable levels! 2004 finds it much worse
with no relief in sight for our waterways?

Drugs from people and animals are in the water

Here's another link that I found from Science News Online: The contamination occurs not only from the drugs that people take but the ones fed to animals. The citations in this article include some Federal EPA research and a link to "Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment: Agents of Subtle Change?" which can be found here:

Revisit GLUE

  This seems like a good time to revisit the efforts of the Great Lakes Urban Exchange.  What progress have we made in cleaning up Lake Erie and the Great Lakes?