Drugs in the water: a number one issue

It turns out that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's crusade on behalf of New York City drinking water only targeted about 10 percent of the drugs that humans flush down the toilet. The other 90 percent, according to an article in Time Magazine this week, is the stuff that humans, er, excrete:

The planet may still be paying for the cold you had last winter. If it was a bad one, you probably took medicine. Maybe you rinsed the little dosing cup in the sink every time you used it. Maybe you finished the bottle and threw it in the trash. What you surely did several times a day was go to the bathroom — perhaps more than usual if you were taking care to drink plenty of liquids — and some of that medicine passed straight through you. What all this means is that while you were taking your cold medicine, so was your local water supply.

To get an idea of how much stuff humans release into the wild via our plumbing, scientists have shown that there are major spikes in the amounts of vanilla and cinnamon that show up in city waterways around Christmastime.

With already-digested drugs, the problem is big enough that the Environmental Protection Agency is counting them as pollutants in its just-announced revamp of federal clean water regulations. This might mean trouble for NYC's unfiltered water supply down the line.