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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Medicinal Salt with Pharmaceuticals

There is an email making the rounds that takes prompts you to look at a website about so-called medicinal salt. In part, the site says:

“Are you feeling depressed? Sick of paying exorbitant rates for birth control? Try Alviso’s Medicinal All-Salt, harvested locally in San Jose. Traditionally, medical conditions are treated through expensive appointments and prescription drugs. Alviso’s Medicinal All-Salt is a unique low-dosage cocktail of our most commonly used drugs, all brought together in one simple salty remedy, naturally. Our process harvests two popular commodities, sea salt and recycled pharmaceuticals from water treatment plants, to produce one fine medicinal product: Alviso’s Medicinal All-Salt. A salt for every condition, hand harvested and sun dried for purity.”

Dr. Grout’s Comment:

You have to give these folks in San Jose, California an A for effort. With dry humor, they make a timely statement about the fact municipal water treatment plants cannot filter out all the pharmaceutical drugs Americans take. Think of the drug menagerie – your husband’s statin to lower cholesterol, your boss’ hypertension pill, your neighbors’ antibiotics and birth control pills…

In one part of the site, they do get serious: “The U.S. represents the largest single national market for pharmaceuticals: 44% of all Americans take at least one or two prescription drugs, and almost one in five take three or more. Our bodies don’t fully absorb all the pharmaceuticals we take, and the unabsorbed compounds end up in the sewer system. After sewage is treated and cleaned by a wastewater treatment plant, the water and any remaining compounds, like pharmaceuticals, are released into the [San Francisco] bay.”

They make a darn good point. Researchers discovered “intersex fish” in the Potomac River and its tributaries in 2006. Two years later, an Associated Press investigation of water providers in all 50 states found a vast array of pharmaceuticals including antibiotics, anticonvulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones. The amounts were far below the levels of a medical dose and utilities insist their water is safe. But the fact is, as AP pointed out, we “do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies – which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public – have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.”

The EPA looks at traditional water contaminants like pesticides, lead, and PCBs; but they do not look for drugs. However, medications may pose a unique danger because, unlike most chemical pollutants, they were crafted to act on the human body.
The EPA suggests people toss unused prescription drugs in the trash, not to toss the tablets in the toilet. And it’s not just a problem of polluting the water supply – our nation is so awash in prescription drugs that the majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends. This year, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began holding “National Take Back Initiative” events for people to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs.

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