Issue Date: September 19, 2011
EPA Lacks Data On Drugs In Water
EPA should form a working group to coordinate interagency research on pharmaceuticals in drinking water, a report from the Government Accountability Office recommends (GAO-11-346). GAO finds that EPA lacks both occurrence data and human health effects data for pharmaceuticals and other emerging contaminants in drinking water, making it difficult for the agency to regulate them under the Safe Drinking Water Act. GAO also finds that EPA is informally collaborating with other agencies, including FDA and the U.S. Geological Survey, to help fill in the data gaps, but there are no formal mechanisms to sustain and manage such efforts. “It is clear that we do not fully understand the health consequences from long-term low-dose exposures to pharmaceutical contaminants in our nation’s drinking water,” says Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), who along with Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) requested the GAO investigation. EPA agrees that exposure to pharmaceuticals in drinking water, particularly antibiotics and endocrine disrupters, has the potential to impact human health. The agency supports the establishment of an interagency working group to coordinate federal research on pharmaceuticals in drinking water, but it cautions that a lack of resources hampers such efforts.
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