Water Filter That Removes Pharmaceuticals

In the last few years, traces of pharmaceutical drugs have been discovered in surface waters, groundwater, and wastewater effluent even though the levels are low the concern from government regulators, water suppliers, and the general public has risen regarding the potential risks to human health from exposure to drinking water and how to deal with a new problem. Can Water Filters Remove Pharmaceuticals from Drinking Water?

Home Water Filters using Reverse Osmosis that employs tiny micro-pores, measured in microns & that remove chemicals from Drinking H2O is the only known treatment that has the capability to remove Pharmaceuticals that are Chemicals but Data, testing & information are too early on this new pollution.

Pharmaceuticals are cycled through Wastewater treatment to receiving water streams and then to Drinking Water treatment facilities where both are not equipped to handle the emergence of this growing problem and how it will affect consumers and wildlife in the future.


Water Filter That Removes Pharmaceuticals


Although the water we drink every day is reasonably clean of contaminants, water quality experts are increasingly concerned about another kind of water pollution: chemicals from prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications that get into lakes, rivers, and streams. Water also gets contaminated by perfume, cologne, skin lotions, and sunscreens that wash off people’s skin.

These types of contaminants haven’t really been looked at until they started showing up in aquatic environments. The majority of harmful contaminants that are tested, at this date around 80 in all are recognized. These prohibited nasties include bacteria, viruses, pesticides, petroleum products, strong acids, and some metals.

The fact that these new types of harmful contamination to no one’s knowledge have done damage not yet but according to research studies, they have had effects on aquatic life. Most bathroom cabinets in America are filled with prescription drugs and lotion and creams meant for pain relief and antibiotics that are flushed when used like opioids or are washed off people’s bodies in recreational activities.

Most drugs prescribed by Doctors end up disposed of improperly. Not just doctors prescribed, but both prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Drug take-back programs, which have local residents drop off their unused medications at central locations in towns, serve two purposes. They keep unused drugs out of the water and prevent the diversion of drugs, mainly opioid painkillers, for recreation and illegal purposes.

EPA has developed national programs in hospitals and nursing homes to stop flushing unused medicines down the toilets in their facilities. The scary part is that the human body only metabolizes a fraction of the drugs they ingest or swallow and the rest is excreted in urine and waste and introduced back into the environment.

In the last few years, lots of medications are delivered by wearing patches on the outside of the body and rubbing lotions on the outside of the skin.

Testerone cream is one topical cream that is of concern to the Federal Government. Drug Manufacturers in some parts of the country are a huge problem and safe limits in streams are up to 10-1000 times higher than more responsible companies. Agriculture is another major source.

Up to two trillion pounds of animal waste generated by large-scale poultry and livestock operations in this country is laced with hormones and antibiotics that are fed to animals daily to make them grow faster and to keep them from getting sick. Inevitably, some of those hormones and antibiotics leach into groundwater or get into waterways and are returned to the cycle.

Are There Antibiotics in Drinking Water


Studies since 2010 by the US Geological Survey Dept. found a variety of Antibiotics from 10 out of 11 samples in Ohio. These antibiotics get into the environment the same way as other drugs over the counter or prescribed by a Doctor.

  • The human body can only metabolize a fraction of the medication doses we take.
  • The rest is excreted in urine and feces.
  • is added into the sewer system
  • It is treated at the Wastewater plant
  • Most of it is discharged into receiving bodies of water and streams

The other way: Patients are told that all unused prescribed medicines that are over the expiration date are flushed down the toilet where they end up going through the same process. In the Agricultural Industry most is added directly to the groundwater and into bodies of water that are used as a supply for Private Wells and Public water systems.

The overuse of antibiotics in medicine and the ten’s of millions of pounds used in the Agricultural Industry which end up in our Drinking Water is considered a ticking time bomb by research scientists that see it as contributing to antibiotic resistance in pathogens that are harmful or even deadly to humans. This is a huge concern to some people who are warning the world’s governing officials that this imposing threat is the most dangerous threat that the World will have to face in the near future.

The list of pharmaceutical agents include analgesic, antibiotic, anticoagulant, antidepressant, antihistamine, and antihypertensive drugs, hormones (from oral contraceptives and hormone-therapy), and muscle relaxants, among others. Lithium (used to treat bipolar disorder), blood thinners, carbamazepine (an analgesic/anticonvulsant), metoprolol (an antihypertensive), and buproprion (an antidepressant) were the most frequently detected drugs in the water samples after treatment. The list of chemicals can now be found in trace or very small amounts.

Here’s the real shocker: The presence of pharmaceuticals is not regulated in our drinking water supply. “People may find it hard to believe, but this country still doesn’t require our drinking water systems to remove prescription drugs and many other contaminants from our tap water,” says Erik Olson, director of NRDC’s Health program. 

Some people worry that the waste products that come from effluents and sludges from Wastewater plants which are the by-products of sewage treatment can affect soils. Because these by-products are landfilled or added as nutrient-rich soils to farm fields Antibiotics can affect plants that depend on strands of bacteria that are killed off. The Future of Pollution could be something that could creep up on us blindly and have some devastating consequences. This danger is not only at our tap but in our food too.

Can Pharmaceuticals be Filtered out of Water


The new technology in Water Treatment that will only get bigger in the future is the pollution of the future. It’s the unseen contaminants that are Human Prescribed and Veterinary drugs that are wreaking havoc on wildlife worldwide. There are reports of at least 250 million pounds of pharmaceutical waste that is estimated to be flushed annually, a large percentage coming from hospitals and care facilities. Wastewater Treatment facilities can reduce some pharmaceuticals from sewage but only about 50% even with the most advanced type of treatment provided.

These types of contaminants are sneaking into our water supplies and ending up in your faucet at your kitchen sink. Pharmaceutical drugs and hormones are classified as emerging drinking water contaminants that have been acknowledged as an area of growing concern by the EPA. Emerging contaminants are pollutants that are ubiquitous in water sources at low levels, but very little is known about the effects that these substances have on aquatic life or human health.

To be able to achieve high removal rates of pharmaceuticals from the water (99%+), there are a number of different processes that will accomplish this starting at the source which is mostly Wastewater Effluents. Wastewater plants have the capacity to remove 50% or more of targeted Pharmaceutical drugs through advanced treatment processes like Activated carbon filters, ozonation, advanced oxidation, and reverse osmosis filters.

There is no one to check if Pharmaceuticals contaminants are arriving at your home in your drinking water that may contain trace amounts in it. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most countries don’t have the capacity to monitor pharmaceutical drugs in drinking water for the availability of routine analytical technologies. Because of the diverse amounts of contaminants that are involved.

When they target a pharmaceutical drug in surface water or somewhere else in the environment where drinking water is pulled from, they find it. Studies in the USA have detected very low levels of pharmaceuticals in samples taken from treated drinking water. Researchers have also found several pharmaceutical concentrations in tap water at very low concentrations ranging from nanograms to low micrograms per liter in several countries in Europe, including Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy. Meaning that it’s a worldwide problem.

The studies also show that the highest used drug identified in that region of the world is the drug, whose residue is the largest found in the targeted areas. EPA adds contaminates to their list every year or so and it involves establishing an acceptable daily intake (ADI) or tolerable daily intake (TDI) based on a variety of calculations e.g. from extrapolations, applications of uncertainty factors.

Establishing all this type of information could take a while to study and put together. In the meantime, the testing that has been done in this short amount of time shows that the best type of Water treatment according to the EPA is Reverse Osmosis which removes chemicals through small pores measured in microns. It’s not 100% and it’s too early to claim that this may be the answer to this new type of pollution.


Ways to Reduce Your Pharmaceutical Footprint


Limit bulk purchases-Volume discounts make the price attractive, but big bottles of unused pills create an opportunity for medications to end up in the water. Using drug take-back programs through a federal law that went into effect in 2010 makes it easier for those programs to be organized at a local level, so you may see one in your community. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency has held two national drug take-back days and is likely to organize some more.

Do not flush unused medicines or pour them down the drain-This is the very least you can do. But the FDA advises that certain powerful narcotic pain medications should be flushed because of concerns about accidental overdose or illicit use unless you can find a drug take-back program that will accept them. Be careful about how you throw medications into the trash-Medications thrown into the trash end up being incinerated or buried in landfills, which is preferable to flushing them or pouring them down the drain.

If you put them in the trash, remove them from the packaging, crush them, and seal them in a plastic bag with some water. You’re supposed to add sawdust, cat litter, coffee grounds, or some other unappealing material to the bag. That isn’t for environmental reasons, but to cut down on the chances that a child or animal might eat the contents. You should also be careful to peel off any identifying information from containers of prescription medicine.


Water Filters That Remove Pharmaceuticals


Home Water filters can be very effective at removing a wide range of contaminants from water, but what water filters remove actually depends on the type of process and filtering system you’re using. There is really no single water filter that can remove everything from water, but by using a combination of treatment methods, you can have a filtering system that gives you almost nothing but pure water. There are two main ways in which water filters work: physical filtration and active or chemical filtration.

Most filters actually use a combination of these two methods – an “active” filter changes the contaminant using a media in some way, then physically filters it out of the water. By using a combination of these types of filters, along with one or more other treatment methods, you can remove nearly everything from your water.

Success from RO or Reverse Osmosis filtering in removing Pharmaceuticals has been seen in testing filters with small micron filters as small as 1 micron that is appropriately sized to remove chemical contaminants involved with Drinking Water.

The black berkey filters from the Berkey Water Filter have been tested for removing these emerging contaminants, including pharmaceuticals and hormones such as ibuprofen, triclosan, caffeine and progesterone that are commonly found in drinking water. The Berkey filters were tested for 17 different drugs and hormones, with each being removed to greater than 99.5% to meet the Public Health & Saftey Organization NSF Standard 42 and NSF Standard 53 for chemical reduction.

This entry was posted in pharmaceutical drugs and tagged berkey water filter pharmaceuticals removal, berkey water filter hormone removal, berkey water filter bpa removal on October 30, 2018 by Dan DeBaun – dan@bigberkeywaterfilters.com There are few comprehensive, systematic monitoring studies on pharmaceuticals in drinking water, and limited data to try and assess potential human health risks from exposure to trace concentrations of pharmaceuticals in drinking water.

In addition, there is no standardized protocol for the sampling and analytical determination of pharmaceuticals. In other words this threat is new and how we deal with new threat is to study the threat over a period of time and record that data.

Besides the concern in Drinking Water is the fact that pharmaceuticals could bioaccumulate within the tissues of fish and other aquatic organisms. While pharmaceuticals are not likely to persist to the same extent that toxic chemicals such as PCBs do, due to their widespread use, there is a persistent flow of these drugs through the waterways, so they are being constantly replenished and continuously absorbed by fish and other aquatic organisms, ultimately producing a similar result.

If you are concerned about the health effects of exposure to emerging contaminants that in all likelihood are present in your drinking water, you can invest in a good quality home water filter that is capable of removing these contaminants. Filters that make claims of pharmaceutical removal like Home Master TMAFC-ERP Reverse Osmosis Water Filter or the one I use the Big Berkey BK4X2 Countertop Water Filter System are quality filters to choose from. However, because home water filters are not regulated or routinely tested before being marketed to consumers, not all filters are equal.

However, while home water treatment filters are not regulated, manufacturers can undergo voluntary testing by legitimate 3rd party laboratories to ensure their product/s meets national standards and minimum requirements established by the NSF to ensure home water filters are capable of treating drinking water to a safe standard. That is a volunteer situation.

I don’t think that every year that rolls by we aren’t convinced that there will be more and more unknown substances that are found and added to the EPA’s list of harmful contaminants and that adding extra protection to your family and home isn’t a bad idea.

Even EPA isn’t sure where this whole Pharmaceutical problem that has developed from another problem will be years down the road. It’s a problem now and the fact EPA is starting to target more drugs to the list of contaminants should prove that it’s a serious concern.

How EPA will approach treatment either from the Wastewater Effluent where most comes from or on the Water Treatment side where new treatment avenues develop specifically for this type of problem. I do know that I own a Water filter that uses Reverse Osmosis (RO) Technology because the known advantage of this treatment is working already in removing chemicals from Drinking Water.

Water Filters that are sold today make the claim that their filter removes residual pharmaceutical drugs that “need to be called on it”. Or any claim. A homeowner shouldn’t take their word for it. Do your homework.


JimGalloway Author/Editor




WHO-Pharmaceuticals in Drinking-water

National Resource Council Defense-Preventing Pharmaceutical Contamination of Our Nation’s Drinking Water 

 Vice-There Are Drugs In Your Drinking (and Bottled) Water 





Recent Posts