I’ve always joked to my clients that some people in the environmental field won’t be happy until we are wearing grass skirts and diapers. I used to add that we would be cooking meals over a charcoal fire, but with the heat over global warming that is probably not on the agenda any longer.
But now I see that some business interests are suggesting that measures need to be taken to prevent cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs and other products from entering the wastewater stream. This is part of a larger concern that pharmaceuticals and personal care products (“PPCPs”) are contaminating groundwater and drinking water supplies when flushed down the toilet or dumped down the drain. The EPA and USGS are already finding these PPCPs and highly toxic chemotherapy drugs in groundwater.
What caught my eye was a report that the law firm for a company called Pharma-Cycle has issued a memo making the legal contention that flushing human excrement violates Rhode Island environmental laws if that excrement contains hazardous substances. Of course the law firm’s client sells the products that would supposedly solve this problem. Exactly what this product looks like is unclear as their webpage does not clearly explain what is in their “Pharma-Cycle kit.” If it is not a diaper, then it is likely some sort of toilet contraption similar to the portable toilets that can be used by campers along with a hamper, and, I hope, some sort of seal.
What all of this ignores of course is that illegal drugs such as cocaine are also commonly found in the wastewater stream. In fact, federal agencies can use the levels of those drugs in the wastewater stream to calculate actual drug use in communities. It is already illegal to have or use those drugs, so is there really any hope of being able to keep those drug users from doing their thing in their toilet? No.
Finally, I am left with the worrisome thought this movement will catch on and that we will all be wearing grass skirts and diapers. Just wait.