Disposing of old medications improperly could pollute drinking water

July 14, 2010 | General RCAP News

Did you know that by disposing of medications by dumping them into the toilet or down the sink, for example, you could be polluting our rivers, lakes and drinking water? So, then, what is the best way to get rid of meds? The National Community Pharmacists Association is rolling out the new “Dispose My Meds” campaign to help consumers find a safe disposal method for their old prescriptions.   The campaign’s website – Disposemymeds.org  – will direct you to the nearest participating pharmacy that will take your old meds and send them to a safe medical waste disposal site. This process ensures that dangerous chemicals from these medicines don’t end up in our water systems.   In a similar effort, RCAP has partnered with the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) for the “Water We Drink” campaign, an effort focused on helping small communities make wise choices about what’s in their water systems.   An article written for the campaign, “Drugs in our waterways: What can community leaders do to slow the flow?” is another resource that describes how prescription drugs can contaminate local water systems and provides information on their safe disposal.   The campaign also suggests three methods of disposal that can easily be completed by consumers:

  1. Take unused drugs and medications to a “community pharmaceutical take-back program,” such as the “Dispose My Meds” campaign.
  2. Do NOT flush unused portions of drugs and medicines down the toilet, except where the label or instructions indicate to flush.
  3. Throw them in the trash, but only after removing them from their original bottle, making them unpalatable by mixing them with wet coffee grounds, glue, or kitty litter, and putting them in a leak-proof container. 
Resources for “message multipliers”   If you edit a newsletter, maintain a website, are a leader in a water or wastewater utility, or otherwise have the means to communicate with your utility’s customers and residents in your community, the “Water We Drink” campaign has produced ready-made content for your publications/communications resources on several topics of concern to small water utilities.   The campaign also provides other educational resources that address the topic of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in our waterways. They include a brochure, fact sheets, a PowerPoint presentation and instructor’s guide, a reference article, and federal guidelines for properly disposing of prescription drugs. They are designed for small community leaders and decision-makers, water and wastewater board members, and the general public, although many other audiences will find the information useful.   These items can be obtained for free on the campaign’s website. They are available to download for educational and nonprofit use, such as reprinting in your newsletter or magazine, distributing via email or Internet, or using in training, meetings, or presentations.