Letters to the Editor

Readers write about drugs in drinking water and college athletes' compensation.

Contaminant levels and drinking water safety

Regarding your March 11 editorial, "Reduce drug traces in tap water": The referenced Associated Press report on drugs in drinking water acknowledges that the reported amounts are tiny and the effects of these amounts are unknown. But too many people lose sight of how many molecules there are in a teaspoon of anything and how incredibly sensitive modern chemical analyses have become, and incorrectly infer that toxic substances cannot be diluted to innocuous concentrations. The toxicity or efficacy of any substance is a matter of amounts. Potassium is injected into the bloodstream at toxic levels to execute criminals for capital murder, but nutritionists strive for enough potassium in foods to avoid hypokalemia.

A single aspirin tablet uniformly dispersed into the entire annual United States domestic and municipal water consumption would add 27 million molecules of acetylsalicylic acid to every cupful of that water. That concentration falls well below present detection limits, but new techniques continually increase the sensitivity and specificity of analytical methods. If a new supersensitive method were devised, should we then require all water purveyors to test to those levels and require all people to return their unused aspirin? No. We need more common sense in reporting on the minuscule amounts of the many chemicals that surround us.

Richard M. Peekema
Retired analytical chemist
San Jose, Calif.

In response to your recent editorial on drug traces in drinking water: Americans are right to be concerned by reports of prescription drugs in their water. But this should not scare people away from their taps and into buying bottled water – an expensive and less safe choice. As suggested, bottled water was not tested for drug traces and is currently not being tested for known hazards such as bacteria, synthetic contaminants, or heavy metals. Solving our water infrastructure problem is a national concern that will not be resolved by turning to bottled water.

Congress needs to provide funding for communities around the country that are struggling to maintain and upgrade aging water systems. We need a clean water trust fund that would allocate a steady flow of funding to repair and upgrade pipes and treatment plants in order to give communities the financial help they need to invest in safe and affordable drinking water for every American.

Wenonah Hauter
Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

In response to your recent editorial on drugs in our drinking water, groundwater, and soils. Twice I have watched hospice volunteers flush leftover drugs down the toilet. Both times I tried to stop it, telling them they were polluting our water. Both times I was told it was the standard procedure. Several times I have asked my pharmacy to take back unused drugs and they refuse to do it. We drink spring water from the mountain we live on, and we guard every precious drop. We are lucky, but we are in the minority. The time has come to recognize there is no more "away."

Barbara Webster
Burnsville, N.C.

College athletes are 'paid' in benefits

Regarding Allen Sack's March 7 Opinion piece, "Should college athletes be paid?": College athletes are paid. Free tuition, free room and board, free athletic training, among others, are enormous benefits with significant financial value.

With tuition alone at $20,000 and up at many schools, these 18-year-olds earn more than many adults who have been in the workplace for half their lives.

It's arguable that athletes in college are the only sports figures who actually earn what they're worth.

Frank Z. Riely Jr.
Floyds Knobs, Ind.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear in print or on our website, www.csmonitor.com. Mail letters to Readers Write and Opinion pieces to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115. E-mail letters to Letters and Opinion pieces to OpEd.

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