Why Dispose of Unused Drugs?
The “chemical soup” that Lyandres mentions is of concern because of the strange mix of chemicals that we dispose of in our waste stream. These chemicals show up in trace amounts in our drinking water, creating a potentially harmful cocktail of chemicals.
Common chemicals in the waste stream include Prozac, Viagra, and caffeine. As she explained, no one understands the chemistry that occurs when these and other compounds are mixed together. Nor is much is known about the potential impacts on human health. But studies show adverse ecological impacts of endocrine disruptors in our waterways, including “intersex fish” – that is, the male fish in the Potomac River Watershed bearing eggs!
Two really important reasons to properly dispose of unused medicines
What Can a Person Do To Help?
First, it is important to note that using expired medications is potentially harmful to your health. Once a medicine expires, not only can it lose its potency, but also its chemical composition may have changed.
Over the past two years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has increased focus on this issue by instituting nationwide pharmaceutical “Take Back Days”. By making it easier for people to dispose of their medicines safely, the DEA has collected millions of pounds of drugs as a result of this program. The next National Drug Take Back Day is April 27, 2013 and will be administered by state law enforcement.
Commissioner Shore points out that sewage treatment plants do not have the capabilities to clean out the thousands of chemicals that get into the waste stream from home plumbing, storm water, and other sources. So we have to do our part to keep chemicals out of the water system in the first place.
Both Shore and Lyandres advise people to keep an eye on the expiration dates of their prescribed and over-the-counter medications. When the drugs are expired or unused, there are several safe ways to dispose of medicines to keep them out of getting into your drinking water. Below are our experts’ recommendations on safe disposal.
Disposing of Medicines Safely