Crops Irrigated with Recycled Wastewater Pick Up 'Reassuringly' Low Amounts of Drugs

Given that recent research has revealed that drugs, pharmaceuticals, beauty products, and caffeinepass through our bodiesand into wastewater in high enough levels that it can be used to track how well people are following their prescriptions, a new study, presented at theAmerican Chemical Societynational meeting, provides some good news: Food crops irrigated with processed and recycled sewage water pick up only "reassuringly" low levels of these substances.

Irrigating with recycled wastewater is common practice in some parts of the world, notably arid places likeIsrael, which currently reuses 80 percent of wastewater for irrigation—though in the United States single digit percentages of wastewater are reused for agriculture.

Even after passing through sewage treatment plants, water which is otherwise considered safe enough to drink or be discharged into waterways without risk of pollution still can contain remnants of drugs, anti-bacterial soaps, and on and on.

The study is the first to examine crops under field conditions and for some twenty different pharmaceutical and personal care products, andfound that although plants do take up these from the recycled wastewater, the levels, "were quite low and most likely do not pose any health concern."

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