There's something in the water. It's called birth control.

Photo by vocierfous |

Most of us grow up trusting the clean, tasty, potable water that comes from their tap without any doubts - and rightly so. In urban areas, cities like Hamilton have intricate water treatment plants that ensure the drinking water received at the consumer end is of top quality, even if it comes from the questionable waters of Lake Ontario or other such polluted sources. Treatment plants filter out the raw sewage and waste that you put into the water cycle, then they (much more carefully) filter out toxins, pathogens, organic matter, metals, and bacteria coming in from the source before shipping it off to your distribution system. As long as the water smells, tastes, and looks good, nobody questions this system.

But is it possible that treatment plants are missing a few things? Birth control pills and pharmaceuticals, since the beginning of their use, have been floating around in wastewater effluent, which ends up wherever treatment plants choose to dispose of it (usually the same source they take it from). When you take any pill, some gets absorbed by your body and some becomes waste, sent down the toilet.

It may seem obvious, but heightening levels of birth control pill leftovers aren’t exactly good for the local ecosystem - stories of deformed frogs and male fish laying eggs aren’t signs of healthy marine life. Did no one see this coming? From what I can tell, the amount of endocrine-disrupting chemicals entering the ecosystem was thought to be small enough so that only inconsequential, dilute amounts would be released. These dilute amounts added up and have become a real problem.

What scares me is this isn’t new information - hormones have been mutating marine life and disrupting reproductive cycles for years, and who’s to say it won’t start affecting us? After all, the birth control pill’s purpose is to mess with reproductive systems. The movie Waterlife discusses a town where endocrine disrupting contaminants are associated with more female births and higher cancer rates.

For the record, there are definitely ways of filtering out these intimidating substances- activated carbon and reverse osmosis- but check if water treatment plants in YOUR city use these. Not many plants were designed to remove these hormones, and even if the water you drink is being filtered, the wastewater dumped back into its source often receives minimal treatment.

This information makes me quite unsettled… then again, it could just be something in the water.