Via: Ars Technica:
If you love something, set it free… so the old adage goes. Well, if the things you love are pharmaceuticals, then you're in luck. Through vegetables and fruits, the drugs that we flush down the drain are returning to us—though we'll ultimately pee them out again. (Love is complicated, after all)
In a randomized, single-blind pilot study, researchers found that anticonvulsive epilepsy drug carbamazepine, which is released in urine, can accumulate in crops irrigated with recycled water—treated sewage—and end up in the urine of produce-eaters not on the drugs. The study, published Tuesday in Environmental Science & Technology, is the first to validate the long-held suspicion that pharmaceuticals may get trapped in infinite pee-to-food-to-pee loops, exposing consumers to drug doses with unknown health effects.
While the amounts of the drug in produce-eater's pee were four orders of magnitude lower than what is seen in the pee of patients purposefully taking the drugs, researchers speculate that the trace amounts could still have health effects in some people, such as those with a genetic sensitivity to the drugs, pregnant women, children, and those who eat a lot of produce, such as vegetarians. And with the growing practice of reclaiming wastewater for crop irrigation—particularly in places that face water shortages such as California, Israel, and Spain—the produce contamination could become more common and more potent, the authors argue.
"The potential for unwitting exposure of consumers to contaminants via this route is real," the authors wrote, adding that their study provides real world data that proves exposure occurs.
Research Credit: alvinroast