[to top of second column]
But the leachate -- in high enough concentrations -- can pose a threat to fish and shellfish. Research suggests that hormonal drugs, such as birth control pills, tend to feminize fish. If the trend continues, Hyland said, there could be too few male fish to continue reproduction.
"What you find are greater concentrations of females downstream from where they've seen a dose of hormones, so you find a feminization of the fish population where there are fewer males around," he said.
Hyland said he has questions about the effect on commercial seafood -- one of Maine's biggest industries -- in ocean waters downstream from the rivers, particularly bivalves such as clams or mussels, which filter water constantly and live near the shore.
"But obviously we need to know a lot more before we can draw a lot of conclusions," Hyland said.
Although landfill leachate doesn't get into drinking water supplies in Maine, it probably does elsewhere, said Andy Tolman, a geologist with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. And some scientists urge caution about the dangers of drinking such water over several decades.
"Many larger states have big rivers that are used for both waste disposal and drinking water supplies, places like Ohio and Pennsylvania," Tolman said. "The same river gets used a number of times, and they're very concerned about treatment of sewage and leachate."
Powell, from the pharmaceutical lobby, argued that people can properly dispose of their drugs in their household trash. In Maine, much of the trash is burned, she said, and pollution control experts agree that incinerating unwanted drugs is the safest solution.
She argued that if the bill does pass, it will only make drugs more expensive, she said.
Concerns have grown in recent years over pharmaceuticals reaching drinking water supplies. An Associated Press investigation in 2008 reported that the drinking water of at least 51 million Americans contains minute concentrations of a multitude of drugs.
It's commonly believed that the vast majority of drugs that get into water supplies come from human and animal excretion and that smaller amounts come from flushing them down the toilet or drain, a practice the Food and Drug Administration says is not recommended for most medications.
Federal guidelines recommend using community drug take-back programs to dispose of medications. If those aren't available, people should mix their unwanted drugs with cat litter or some other undesirable substance, put them into a sealed container and put it in the trash, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
< Recent articles
Back to top
News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries
Law & Courts |
Spiritual Life |
Health & Fitness |
Calendar | Letters to the Editor