Head hurt, drink water 

In a town that strains its muscles and brains like Missoula, it’s easy to confuse ibuprofen with a daily supplement. But what goes into the body must come out—and can end up in the water supply through sewage spills.

Last Thursday, a group of students and faculty assembled to learn of the impacts of pharmaceuticals in municipal water supplies with professor Traugott Scheytt from the Berlin Technical Institute. “By taking ibuprofen you can pass it back out to sewage, which can spill back into the water,” Scheytt said.

In Berlin he has found concentrations as high as 100 nanograms of ibuprofen per liter of water. To add perspective to the number, a person drinking that water would need to ingest over 3 million gallons per day to get a daily dose of ibuprofen. But on the flip side, a person using ibuprofen can contaminate up to 2.6 million gallons of water with a daily dose.

“You can affect a lot of water,” Scheytt said. “But the concentrations are low overall. It’s not a real threat, but I find it interesting.”

While Scheytt doesn’t see any immediate threats, he did admit that he “would rather drink water without pharmaceuticals than water with pharmaceuticals.”

A few students asked Scheytt of the potential for harm to aquatic life, an aspect he hadn’t studied much, he said.

UM environmental studies professor Vicki Watson chimed in from the audience during the question and answer period.

“If it can get into the water at all, [aquatic organisms] can get a big dose,” Watson said. “They have to drink it all day.”

As if by synchronicity, a new group of environmentally conscious locals has recently formed. Moms for the Environment are concerned with the release of detergents and household toxins into the water supply.

The group meets at the public library and shares information on products from a catalog company called Melaleuca that specializes in cleansers, make-up and toxin-free toothpaste. Call 721-1074 for more information.

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