I don't doubt that having certain levels of certain chemicals in wastewater streams is a bad thing. But stories like this (linked by Instapundit) do not prove that those levels exist. (To his credit, Prof. Reynolds says so, too.) Furthermore, the numbers they do present occasionally undermine their narrative. Consider the following:
Two common industrial chemicals that are also pharmaceuticals - the antiseptics phenol and hydrogen peroxide - account for 92 percent of the 271 million pounds identified as coming from drugmakers and other manufacturers. Both can be toxic and both are considered to be ubiquitous in the environment.Wait a minute - 92% of the load that you're wigging out about consists of antiseptics? And they're ubiquitous in the environment anyway? Color me unimpressed. Two paragraphs later there's this:
Residues are often released into the environment when manufacturing equipment is cleaned.I suppose they'd rather we leave the toxic stuff in concentrated form on the factory equipment for the workers to get sick on. More:
What's more, because the EPA hasn't concluded at what level, if any, pharmaceuticals are bad for the environment or harmful to people, drugmakers almost never have to report the release of pharmaceuticals they produce.Since we don't really know what level is harmful to people, and given the dramatic and proven benefits that pharmaceuticals have generally been to human populations, shouldn't the burden of proof be on these advocacy organizations to demonstrate that a given level is toxic?
Another codeine plant, run by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Noramco Inc., is about seven miles away. A Noramco spokesman acknowledged that the Wilmington, Del., factory had voluntarily tested its wastewater and found codeine in trace concentrations thousands of times greater than what was found in the Delaware River. "The amounts of codeine we measured in the wastewater, prior to releasing it to the City of Wilmington, are not considered to be hazardous to the environment," said a company spokesman.Classic alarmism. They don't tell us what the absolute levels are in the Delaware River or in the waste stream, or compare those to any known standard or toxicity level. They just insert the entirely plausible statement that the level in the wastewater is THOUSANDS OF TIMES GREATER than the general level, insinuating that THIS IS BAD without ever establishing that as a fact. If you'll pardon the imagery, this is a little bit like complaining that the level of poop in my sewage pipe is THOUSANDS OF TIMES GREATER than the level in the Atlantic Ocean. It may be true, but it's entirely irrelevant.
I'm all for avoiding obvious mistakes by dumping drugs into rivers at concentrations that are known to be harmful to humans, even locally. But I want to see some hard numbers, like, say, the number of gallons of water these 271 million pounds of toxic substances were dumped into, before I'm convinced.