Nearly half of all Americans take one or more prescription drugs, with the percentage soaring to 85 percent for persons aged 60 and above (myself included). Water is the most widely used substance in the production, formulation, and packing of myriad pharmaceuticals, which are compounds manufactured for use as medicinal drugs. Given the public health importance and global footprint of pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, there are extensive testing and safety requirements to control the quality of water used throughout the manufacturing processes. This article explains how water impacts the medicines you take, and what lengths are taken to keep them safe.
Although snow-capped mountains are visible from much of Denver where I live, Colorado is one of 40 states that anticipate water scarcity challenges in the next decade. The Water Quality & Health Council has written dozens of articles on drinking water quality and the public health imperatives of safe treatment, disinfection, storage, and distribution. Yet water quality goes hand in hand with water availability, use, conservation, and increasingly—water reuse. A newly launched report and national effort led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Draft National Water Reuse Action Plan, is making the news. The plan succinctly puts these needs and connections into perspective: “Safe and reliable water supplies for human consumption, agriculture, business, industry, recreation, and healthy ecosystems are critical to our nation’s communities and economy.” Water scarcity challenges are also global; two of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals emphasize water reuse.
Lower photo credit: CDC/Margaret Williams We continue to write about U.S. waterborne disease caused by Legionella bacteria and their management in building water systems because of their unrelenting public health significance. Legionnaires’ disease first made headlines following the 1976 American Legion conference in Philadelphia. That infamous outbreak included 182 cases of severe pneumonia and 29
It is unsettling to realize that in our high-tech world there are still large segments of the population that lack access to the drinking water and sanitation services most of us take for granted. The theme of this year’s World Water Week, Water for Society: Including All, seems particularly apt in light of this observation. Meanwhile, a new report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (image at right) provides a “special focus” on global “WASH” (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) inequalities. A product of the Joint Monitoring Program, the report concludes that while significant progress has been made toward achieving universal access to water, sanitation, and hygiene, progress is uneven. And although there is a laudable commitment at the heart of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to “leave no one behind,” the reality is there are many groups potentially in that precarious position.
Americans consume over one billion glasses of drinking water each day from over 151,000 U.S. community water systems. But natural and man-made disasters, including wildfires, can impact the provision of safe drinking water. Thankfully rare, wildfires sometimes damage or destroy the treatment plants, storage tanks, pump stations, and pipes that are needed to provide drinking water to our homes, schools, and businesses.
As much of the United States swelters in the midst of a very hot summer (even in northern Minnesota), it seemed again like a good idea to write about the importance of hydration. After all, humans are carbon- and water-based organisms. My previous perspective focused on staying hydrated year-round, but this article addresses some of the current science and persistent misconceptions about hot weather- and exercise-associated dehydration and over-hydration, called hyponatremia. (So yes, you can drink too much water). Although both conditions can be serious, for most of us most of the time, drinking the right amount of water is not that difficult—even during vigorous exercise and in hot and humid conditions. The key is simply to “drink to quench thirst,” but as I noted in my previous article, thirst may become less effective an indicator as we age.
We’ve written about antibiotic (antimicrobial) resistance and “superbugs” several times in recent years, and based on what we continue to learn, there is likely more to come. Antibiotics are used widely in animal agriculture and aquaculture and are also found in wastewater. These pharmaceuticals are excreted by animals and people who are taking antibiotics and when unused pills and liquids are flushed down the toilet or poured into the drain. All of these actions result in antibiotics entering the water environment and our wastewater systems, and have contributed to antibiotic resistant bacteria known as ARB. I wrote in 2015 that “Responsible use and disposal of antibiotics will go a long
way toward reducing the unintended consequences of their entering the waste stream.”
It’s hard to believe that an article I wrote almost a decade ago, Chlorine in Tap Water Is Safe to Drink, remains the most popular of our now over 350 perspectives by the Water Quality & Health Council (WQ&HC). An update seemed in order, but based on its long-established (over 110 years) efficacy and safety: chlorinated tap water is still safe to drink.
Over the years, the Water Quality & Health Council has written extensively about how most Americans enjoy virtually unlimited, year-round access to safe, treated, and inexpensive drinking water for pennies per gallon. This article highlights how this cornerstone of U.S. public health protection is made possible across our large nation with widely varying climates, landscapes,
Next week, May 5–11, is the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) Drinking Water Week—a time when water professionals and the communities they serve join together to recognize the essential public health role of safe drinking water. With just the turn of a tap, most Americans have unlimited access to safe, high quality, and inexpensive (pennies