Scientists have known for decades that there are substances in our tap water that are not natural components of water. This has been detected by testing the tap water itself and by observing peculiar new health effects on the fish in our rivers that feed into our tap water supplies. For example, many fish have been found with both male and female sexual organs, and the fertility of male fish has declined to such an extent that some freshwater fish species have been extinguished.
The Cost of Clean Water
In 2012, researchers concluded that it would cost Britain £30 billion to rid its water of oestradiol alone. Oestradiol is a major type of oestrogen that the more than 2.5 million British women on the contraceptive pill flush down their toilets and into our future water supply. Researchers found this potent hormone in 80 per cent of the water at the 50 sites they tested.
Unsurprisingly, neither the British government, nor the water suppliers, nor those who pay the household water bills are keen on this clean-up effort, and the pharmaceutical industry is actively lobbying against it over fears that it would have to contribute.
Studies in Europe and the United States, which probably apply equally strongly in Britain, have positively tested drinking water for a startling list of pharmaceuticals such as ACE inhibitors (heart drug), antibiotics, antidepressants, beta-blockers, blood thinners, calcium-channel blockers (heart drug), carbamazepine (anti-seizure drug), digoxin, fibrates (cholesterol drugs), naproxen (an anti-inflammatory), painkillers like paracetamol and codeine, and tranquillizers. High amounts of antidepressants have also been found in the brains of some freshwater fish, which illustrates that our quest for synthetic health comes at a steep price.
Hormones and Pharmaceuticals
At this stage, experts worry more about hormones than general pharmaceuticals – because while high concentrated levels of medication are required before our bodies are affected, small amounts of hormones can have an impact. However, many scientists have warned that this is not necessarily true. It is true that hormones can affect the body at far lower levels than pharmaceuticals, but the impact of consuming small quantities of pharmaceuticals in our drinking water over a period of decades may still be harmful.
If you drink three litres of tap water a day, with each litre containing only nanograms of each drug, you are unlikely to consume the same amount as even one prescribed dose across your whole lifetime. But while medical researchers may understand the effects of a one-off prescribed dose, they do not yet understand the effects of a permanent presence of the drugs in our bloodstream. Moreover, synthetic medication consumption rises with each generation, suggesting that the amount of medication in our water will continue to increase. Lastly, the pharmaceuticals that we are permanently consuming in our water are all mixed with one another into a new and unique chemical brew that has not been studied at all.
It is worrying that experts assume the risk to be negligible, as this precludes them from carrying out studies to prove that it is indeed harmless. At present, therefore, we cannot conclude that the chronic consumption of pharmaceuticals in our drinking water is safe.
Examples of Hormones in Our Water
Oestrogen is a group of steroid hormones which promote the development and maintenance of female characteristics of the body. They appear in our drinking water primarily in the form of oestradiol, the most potent form of oestrogen. These hormones enter the water supply chiefly through the oral contraceptive pill, which women excrete in their faeces and urine.
One concern is the effects that the chronic intake of this hormone can have on the sexual development of pre-pubescent children, whose bodies rely on the presence of carefully regulated amounts of male and female hormones to develop the appropriate sexual characteristics at the appropriate time. Another concern is the effect they have on men, who may develop more breast tissue than their peers in previous generations and may struggle with abnormal prostate development and functioning.
Since these hormones seem to cause infertility in fish, some medical authorities are becoming concerned that they may also cause infertility in humans. Furthermore, some findings have supported the conclusion that they may be responsible for aggressive behaviour in men.
Progesterone – A Very Active Hormone
Progesterone is a hormone released by the female body that helps to regulate the menstrual cycle, plays an important role in the development of the mammary glands, and stimulates the uterus to prepare for pregnancy. It is also found in the male body. Among its many functions, it aids the normal development of neurons in the brain, regulates neurotransmission in the nervous system, relaxes smooth muscle throughout the body, combats inflammation, helps regulate the pancreas' release of insulin, reduces gallbladder function, boosts the operations of serotonin receptors in the brain that can potentially make it a positive mood drug, and so on. A lot of body tissue has progesterone receptors, which suggests that it's a highly active hormone.
As a drug, progesterone is prescribed to prevent pregnancy, to induce immediate abortion, and to delay menstruation. It is even being investigated as a treatment for certain types of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. The effects of artificially elevated levels of this hormone are poorly studied and therefore badly understood, but with so many receptors and so many functions, the effects could be far-reaching.
The Effects of Testosterone
Testosterone is produced by both male and female bodies, but occurs in much larger amounts in male bodies, aiding in the development of physical male sexual characteristics. It also plays a role in the synthesis of proteins, such as in muscle tissue. Female bodybuilders consuming testosterone to build muscle, for instance, run the risk of deepening their voices and promoting facial hair.
High amounts of testosterone have also been associated with characteristics like risk-taking behaviour in both men and women, menstrual irregularities in women, larger brains in men, and aggression and anti-social behaviour in both genders (and also in children). At present, the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all drugs containing testosterone carry a warning that they may cause thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. There is even some speculation that testosterone may increase the likelihood of breast cancer in women.
Glucocorticoids – Regulated for a Reason
Glucocorticoids are a group of steroid hormones that include cortisol and dexamethasone. There are few functions in the body in which these hormones are not involved. They support the immune system, help the body absorb blood glucose (or sugar) and act on the brain to generate emotion and cognition – but only in their required amounts as regulated by our bodies.
An excess of glucocorticoids can have seriously adverse effects, which is why they are strictly regulated and available almost exclusively as prescription medicines. It's easy to verify this: simply consult the long list of potential side effects on any medicine containing glucocorticoids, cortisone and cancer drugs.
Glucocorticoids can cause weight gain and even diabetes by increasing the body's resistance to insulin, by depositing fat and by stimulating appetite. They can cause a decrease in bone density and even osteoporosis by blocking the body's absorption of calcium; they can impair memory and attention; they can compromise the immune system by blocking some of its cells from functioning, thereby rendering you more susceptible to a wide range of infections. They can even cause a loss of muscle density and strength.
In summary, these are seriously powerful hormones that we should not consume without our informed consent.
It's simple: do not flush expired or unwanted drugs down the toilet. Locate a pharmacy near you that sends expired drugs back to drug manufacturers for proper disposal, and ask them to include yours with their normal supplies. Alternatively, throw them in the trash – but only after removing the label, crushing them, and mixing them with kitty litter or used coffee grounds. They will then be unpalatable to trash scavengers and will hopefully be incinerated at a landfill.
Stop supporting the meat and dairy industry by adopting a plant-based diet, or eat only certified organic, farm-reared animals. Even though the European Union has banned the provision of growth hormone to farm animals to fatten them up prior to slaughter, all hormones have not been banned except in organically farmed animals. Moreover, these industries use huge quantities of pharmaceuticals to treat millions of farm animals against illness and infections, which may also end up in our water.
Boiling your tap water will not get rid of hormones and other pharmaceuticals. Buying bottled water is not the solution either, as it is either taken from the municipal water supply or from natural sources that might be contaminated with the same substances through the soil into which they drain.
Your best bet, by far, is to invest in a water filter that has been scientifically proven to remove some hormones from your tap water: the Energy Plus Water System. Not only does the filter eliminate harmful hormones, but it neutralises heavy metals, chemical compounds and other contaminants. It also elevates the pH of water, which is increasingly cited as a key to good health by many modern practitioners.