Hormones and pharmaceuticals in groundwater used as a source of drinking water across the United States

This is the first large-scale, systematic assessment of hormone and pharmaceutical occurrence in groundwater used for drinking across the United States. Samples from 1091 sites in Principal Aquifers representing 60% of the volume pumped for drinking-water supply had final data for 21 hormones and 103 pharmaceuticals. At least one compound was detected at 5.9% of 844 sites representing the resource used for public supply across the entirety of 15 Principal Aquifers, and at 11.3% of 247 sites representing the resource used for domestic supply over subareas of nine Principal Aquifers. Of 34 compounds detected, one plastics component (bisphenol A), three pharmaceuticals (carbamazepine, sulfamethoxazole, and meprobamate), and the caffeine degradate 1,7-dimethylxanthine were detected in more than 0.5% of samples. Hydrocortisone had a concentration greater than a human-health benchmark at 1 site. Compounds with high solubility and low Koc were most likely to be detected. Detections were most common in shallow wells with a component of recent recharge, particularly in crystalline-rock and mixed land-use settings. Results indicate vulnerability of groundwater used for drinking water in the U.S. to contamination by these compounds is generally limited, and exposure to these compounds at detected concentrations is unlikely to have adverse effects on human health.

Bexfield L.M, Toccalino P.M, Belitz K., Foreman W.T., Furlong E.T.
Year of Publication
Coverage of Study
North America
Emerging Contaminants
Origin of Pullution
Type of Resource
Research Article