The discovery and use of medicine has allowed people to thrive and survive where our ancestors may have perished. Headaches are banished by a few pills of ibuprofen, and dry, itchy skin is relieved by soothing lotion. Medicines and personal care products, however, are having an unseen impact on the water that we use every day.
Within these medicines, personal care products are chemicals that work to help us feel better, but what we don’t think about is that these chemicals don’t just disappear after we use them. Pharmaceutical drugs pass through our bodies and exit when we use the bathroom, and plenty of other chemicals, like household cleaning products along with personal care products like soap get washed down the drain. Although water and wastewater treatment facilities do a great job of cleaning our water, these treatment processes cannot remove the complex, tiny chemicals within drugs, shampoos and other care products. These chemicals can build up in our water over time, causing unknown harm to animals, amphibians, fish, and humans alike.
Reducing the amount of these chemicals transported into water can be done quite easily. Avoid dumping old medicines directly down the drain. Avoid using excessive amounts of shampoo, soap, and other personal care items that will just be washed away. Additionally, drinking non-caffeinated beverages will keep the chemical caffeine out of water. Using household cleaning products made from natural chemicals that break down in to harmless substances will also help keep our water clean and safe. Through these simple practices, it’s easy to improve our own health and the health of our water, too!
Enhanced Learning Activities (recommended for Grades 3-7)