Airdate: Sep 09, 2008
Scientist: Adina Paytan
Science Diary: Water - Pharmaceuticals
Dive into the ocean, and you may be swimming in more than just salty water!
“You won’t get high from swallowing the water here. The levels are still relatively low, but there should be no pharmaceuticals in seawater.”
Swimming in the ocean may expose you to more than just salt water. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Dr. Adina Paytan is an oceanographer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She investigates the presence and movements of pollutants through water. Dr. Paytan has found that our coastal waters contain all kinds of pharmaceuticals.
The sewage municipal treatment plants in most places only get rid of particulates the real sludge part of the raw material that gets into the treatment plants and then, they get rid of the disease-causing bacteria. But, they don’t actually get rid of dissolved components.
Dissolved substances like phosphates and nitrates remain in the water. And so do many of the drugs which pass through our bodies on the way to a sewer treatment plant like the one in Santa Cruz.
Caffeine, pharmaceuticals, pesticides all remained in the sewage solutions after treatment, because there is currently no monitoring of their concentrations or effective ways of taking them out of the water.
The amount of drugs, caffeine and other unwanted substances in seawater is relatively low. Their effect on beachgoers and the coastal ecosystem is unknown.
Our latest project is the Kids’ Science Challenge, where third to sixth graders get to challenge scientists like Adina Paytan with their own ideas for experiments. Check out kidsciencechallenge.com.
Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.