By: Lisa McAnulty
I once heard someone say that if you brought a glass down to the Potomac River and took a long swig of its water, you would have swallowed a small dose of antidepressants. While drinking Potomac River water is highly discouraged, there may be a hint of truth to this statement. Thousands of pharmaceuticals and personal care products are on the market, and many inevitably make their way into rivers and streams through wastewater discharge or other sources. While we might not necessarily be chugging river water on a daily basis, many organisms call the Potomac River home and can’t escape the barrage of these so-called emerging contaminants. However, “emerging contaminants” is a misleading term for pharmaceuticals and personal care products, which have been in our waters for many years. It’s only recently that scientists developed methods sensitive enough to precisely measure trace quantities of these pollutants.