EPA Region 3
Topic: An Rx for Unused Pills
Size: : 4,012k
Date: April 19, 2012
Andrea Bennett: Sometimes people don’t know how to dispose of leftover drugs and flush them directly down the sink or the toilet. Instead of flushing, there are other ways to safely dispose of drugs.
David Sternberg: If you’re like most of us, you have some expired or unused medicines in your home and you’re not sure what to do with them—whether they’re prescription or over-the-counter, even drugs for your pet. Hi, I’m David Sternberg with EPA’s Mid-Atlantic region. In this edition of Environment Matters, EPA’s Andrea Bennett offers a dose of helpful advice for making sure that unused drugs don’t wind up in our waterways.
Andrea Bennett: When we take medications, our bodies don’t absorb 100% of the drug; the remaining amount passes through our bodies and it’s excreted when we use the toilet. The flushed water flows through underground pipes to your local wastewater treatment plant. But medications such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives, steroids, other prescriptions are not always removed completely at waste water treatment facilities.
David Sternberg: Andrea prescribes some safe ways to get rid of our unused medications.
Andrea Bennett: Well, you can dispose of these pharmaceuticals in your household trash by following a few simple steps. Before you discard any pharmaceuticals, you should first:
- To protect your privacy, get rid of any identification on the container.
- Then follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or the patient information that accompanies the medication. Don’t flush the medicine down the toilet unless the information or label specifically instructs you to do that.
- If no instructions are given, first remove the drugs from the original container and then mix them with coffee grounds or kitty litter or sawdust, something like that, and place them in a sealable bag or container, and put them directly into the garbage.
- And remember, never give any medications to friends or other family members. Medicine that works well for one person might be harmful to another, even for a similar health issue.
David Sternberg: Fortunately, there are experts who can take this problem out of our hands.
Andrea Bennett: Well, you can contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service to find places right in your area where you can drop off drugs. In fact, on Saturday, April 28, the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is the DEA, is sponsoring its annual national drug take-back day. On that day, you can drop off your unwanted drugs at many participating municipal locations, where they’ll be disposed of safely and properly. The last event collected almost 200 tons of unwanted or expired medications at take-back sites across the country. And this is also keeping drugs out of the hands of children. To find a place near you, visit www.dea.gov or call 800-882-9539. That’s 800...882…9539.
David Sternberg: Finally, we asked Andrea how EPA is assessing this important potential environmental problem.
Andrea Bennett: EPA has been working with several federal agencies and state and local government partners to better understand the implications of these emerging contaminants, their potential effects on aquatic organisms and how they could impact human health. For more information on what EPA is doing, please visit our website: www.epa.gov/ppcp/. That’s www.epa.gov/ppcp/
David Sternberg: Thanks, Andrea, for your practical advice, and thanks to our listeners for joining us on Environment Matters, our series of environmental podcasts.