Scientists said yesterday at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco that bathing and showering are, for the first time, recognized as sources of the hormones, antibiotics and pharmaceuticals that pollute the environment.
Researchers have long known that bathrooms were places where active pharmaceutical ingredients, or APIs, were released into the environment. Until now, they believed that the toilet was the main culprit.
But in a first-ever study, scientists determined that bathing, showering and laundering could also play a part -- especially for topical medications, such as creams, lotions and ointments.
Environmental pollution from APIs has been the source of growing concern, and scientists have been trying to understand just how they escape into the environment.
In a comprehensive review of hundreds of scientific studies on metabolism and the use of medications, researchers Ilene Ruhoy and Christine Daughton discovered that many APIs could be simply running down the drain while you take a shower.
The researchers also determined that perspiration and the laundry may also be significant sources of APIs.
Of particular concern to researchers is that APIs aren't metabolized when they simply run off your skin, versus being metabolized in the digestive system, leaving potential for greater environmental impact.
So what's the answer? Scientists will continue efforts to develop better drug delivery systems. In the meantime, lay off the skin cream -- a little is enough.