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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Local officials not concerned after report finds pharmaceuticals in water around the country

Recent investigations by The Associated Press finding traces of pharmaceuticals in the drinking water of 24 U.S. cities haven't worried Alachua County officials.

The pharmaceuticals, which included antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones, appeared across the country in water supplies serving 41 million people, according to the investigation.

Neither the Alachua County Health Department, which regulates well water, nor Gainesville Regional Utilities tests Gainesville's drinking water for pharmaceuticals.

Dan Jesse, a spokesman for GRU, said the company does test for chemicals that would likely be the first to appear in case of contamination. None of those chemicals have been found, Jesse said.

"We have one of the purest water supplies in the country," he said.

According to the AP investigation, pharmaceuticals are flushed into water supplies when peoples' bodies don't absorb all the medication they take.

Wastewater can also be contaminated by unused pills flushed down the toilet.

But the amount of pharmaceuticals being found is small.

The pharmaceutical content in drinking water is measured in micrograms, said Joseph Sekerke, a toxicologist with the Florida Department of Health. That's a thousand times lower than the milligrams that are usually used for doses, and is probably too low to affect anyone, Sekerke said.

"I wouldn't want to say we don't need to worry about it at all, but there are other things that we need to be worrying about more than this," he said.

Still, the investigation has elicited a national response, and the U.S. Senate will hold hearings on the matter in April.

Locally, officials suggest medications be disposed of properly, such as in the pharmacy of UF's Student Health Care Center, where unused medications can be emptied into a container full of acidic solution.

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The free service is also available at all three of Gainesville's Wise's Pharmacy locations and Alachua County Hazardous Waste Collection Center on Northeast 63rd Avenue.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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