BLOOMINGTON – Water experts and scientists agree Central Illinois probably has less to fear from drugs in drinking water than more urban regions of the country.

A national investigation by the Associated Press exposed how certain endocrine-disrupting chemicals and other medicines are affecting drinking water in the largest American cities. Recent studies found traces of painkillers, estrogen, antidepressants, blood-pressure medicines and other drugs in water samples from 30 states, according to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Reproductive changes in fish in some places have been linked to trace levels of medicines and drugs, such as birth control pills, that travel through the human body and find their way into water.

Cities like Bloomington that rely on groundwater and reservoirs like Evergreen Lake and Lake Bloomington are more at risk than towns like Normal and Champaign that rely on underground sources of water.

But Bloomington water director Craig Cummings pointed out few people live on the rural watersheds that supply his city’s reservoirs. That fact limits the chance for contamination from malfunctioning septic systems or other surface sewage treatment.

“The likelihood that these compounds are present in quantities of concern is remote,” he said.

Still, the federal government has yet to determine what levels may be harmful to humans.

“There are people working on understanding the toxicology of these chemicals,” said Timothy Strathmann, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Researcher at the Center of Advanced Materials for the Purification of Water with Systems at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Some studies have shown that even at very trace levels, some can have impacts on aquatic life  It’s hard to say what safe levels are.” 

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