Water bubbles
©Marlon Felippe/Wikimedia Commons

Antibiotics. Anticonvulsants. Antidepressants. Anti-inflammatories.

Drink up. Eight glasses a day. Because that's what's in your tap water, according to an Associated Press investigation.

"A vast array of pharmaceuticals - including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones - have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans," the AP, report reads. "To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe."

Those same water treatment plant operators also acknowledge that nothing they do - from stripping bacteria and known chemical contaminants from the water to adding fluoride - can remove these low-level pharmaceuticals, which are not, for the most part, regulated; they do not have to be tested for or removed from public drinking water supplies.

The AP study echoes government studies that have found low levels of commonly used and prescribed drugs - everything from pain killers to caffeine - in water downstream of sewage treatment plants, or residential septic tanks. (It's not that drug flushing is rampant - though that's a problem too - but that we excrete a large amount of the drugs we take in; more than anything, this study shows how hypermedicated Americans are.) The AP investigation analyzed records at major metropolitan water plants and found drugs had been detected in 24 of them.

What does this cocktail of chemicals do to the human body, or to wildlife? Is it making male fish female? Is it making pregnant mothers produce more girls than boys? Is a lifetime of low-level exposure more damaging than a single massive dose?

Those are open questions.