Who is next - French water contains traces of pharmaceuticals

Brussels — According to a study carried out by the French organisation Fondation France Libertés and the consumer magazine 60 Millions de Consommateurs, one out of five bottled waters on the shelves of French supermarkets contain small amounts of pesticides and pharmaceuticals residues.

"It is time for the European Union to pressure national governments to control pharmaceuticals in water to safeguard aquatic life and human health. Instead of clean drinking water we consume a cocktail of unwanted substances. As we do not know yet the long-term effects of the chemical mixtures we are drinking we are running a live experiment on European citizens."

— Grazia Cioci, Policy Director at HCWH Europe

Whilst scientists say the contamination is small and the water remains safe, there is a concern for "potential cocktail effect" for consumers. The French study confirms the environmental concerns already raised by a report of the German Environment Agency in 2011. The german report traced 154 pharmaceuticals in various environmental media in Germany, and listed 24 as priority substances based on their high risk for the environment and public health. At a crucial time when European institutions are struggling to find an agreement on an EC Directive proposal that for the first time considers the potential effects of pharmaceuticals in the environment and foresees the control and monitoring of only three pharmaceuticals. HCWH Europe calls on all Member States to start monitoring and controlling pharmaceuticals in their rivers, lakes and coastal waters to ensure water quality and provide European citizens with safe drinking water.

France Libertes news article (25/03/2013)

Bergmann A et al. (2011) Zusammenstellung von Monitoringdaten zu Umweltkonzentrationen von Arzneimitteln, Gutachten des IWW Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wasser Beratungs- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH im Auftrag des Umweltbundesamtes

NGO's Briefing - “Bringing out rivers, lakes and wetlands to ecological health" Frequently Asked Questions on priority substances in water and pharmaceuticals

Health Care Without Harm is an international coalition of more than 500 organizations in 53 countries, working to transform the health care sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. Visit the HCWH website for more information.