Birth control pills, cancer
drugs and a host of other pharmaceuticals that people flush down
the drain every day are showing up in our drinking water, says
Gord Miller, Ontario's environmental commissioner.
"We need to do a better job of keeping drugs out of lakes,
rivers and drinking water," Miller told the Kitchener-Waterloo
Record on Wednesday.
Although the drugs are not
considered a threat to human health, there is evidence that they
can harm wildlife.
"There is no health hazard in
drinking water now that has been detected in Canada, but we have
detected substances in drinking water," he said, adding that the
problem is likely to get worse rather than better as the
"Our society loves to pop pills,"
Miller said. "If you were designing the perfect pollutant it
would probably look like a pill."
Miller was sworn in as environmental commissioner six years ago
to oversee the implementation of Ontario's Environmental Bill of
Rights. He is an independent officer of Queen's Park, where he
reports on government compliance with environmental rules.
In his last annual report, Miller
said contraceptives, painkillers, antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs
and blood-pressure drugs are showing up in lakes and rivers,
while anti-inflammatory and anti-cholesterol drugs and
antidepressants are ending up in drinking water.
Experiments in northern Ontario
have shown that exposure to these waste drugs has led to the
feminization of male fish, delayed reproduction in female fish
and damage to kidneys and livers of both sexes, the report said.
Independent studies by the
Environmental Protection Agency in the United States and by
environmental bodies in England have turned up similar evidence.
Miller said pharmaceuticals are
getting into drinking water in several ways. Unused drugs are
thrown into domestic garbage, which end up in landfill sites and
eventually into the groundwater.
Drugs are taken orally and
flushed down toilets as human excrement. And unused drugs are
washed down the sink or flushed down the toilet directly into
Many drugs pass right through the sewage and water treatment
plants, back into the drinking water.
"Sewage treatment plants aren't
designed to remove them," Miller said.
Report Ends Here