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Safe Disposal of Medicine

2012 April 27

By Meghan Hessenauer

I never really gave much thought about medicine until now. Now I need medicine. Now I am a mother and my kids take medicine. Now I study how medicine is disposed of as part of my job as an environmental scientist. And now, I know just how serious a problem unintentional poisoning can be. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 142,000 children were seen in emergency rooms in 2004 and 2005 because of medication poisonings, and more than 80 percent of those poisonings were because an unsupervised child found and consumed medications.

I used to keep my medicine in the bathroom under the sink or in the medicine cabinet. I now know that is not a good idea. Besides being subject to steam and heat, the medicine can be reached by my kids if I store it in the bathroom cabinet. Being the little explorers that they are, my kids see cabinets as perfect treasure boxes – all of this little stuff to play with and potentially ingest.

Additionally, pharmaceutical compounds have been detected at low concentrations in our nation’s rivers, lakes, streams and drinking water, leading to concerns that these compounds may affect aquatic life. For these reasons, EPA initiated a study of unused pharmaceutical disposal practices at health care facilities with the goals of understanding one way in which pharmaceuticals enter our waterways and also understanding what factors contribute to pharmaceuticals entering through water. While EPA understands that there are many factors influencing the handling and disposal of pharmaceuticals by the health care industry, the focus of EPA’s study is on disposal into water. EPA decided to study medical facilities because the Agency believes that these facilities dispose of a large quantity of unused pharmaceuticals.

If you have not already done so, take a thorough look at your medicine cabinet. Find a new location to store your medicine that is not in the bathroom and is up high and out of reach of kids. Properly dispose of the medicine that you no longer use. Don’t dump it in the toilet or down the drain – if possible, take it to a prescription drug take-back event this weekend. Chances are there’s a drop-off location in your neighborhood. To find a drug take-back drop-off point, visit the Drug Enforcement Administration’s web page.

About the author: Meghan Hessenauer is an environmental scientist in EPA’s Office of Water. She is writing guidelines for the health care industry on how to manage their unused pharmaceuticals.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

33 Responses leave one →
  1. April 27, 2012

    Thank you Meghan for this important information on where I can go to dispose of unused and expired medications on Saturday. I put in my zip code and found there are more than 35 locations within 10 miles of my home. Now that is what I call convenient.

  2. Steve Vetzner permalink
    April 27, 2012

    Thank you for explaining how important it is that we safely dispose of medicine. We all have a responsibility to do so–for our environment, our children and families, and our future.

  3. April 27, 2012

    Since arthritis has stiffened my hands I request caps on my meds that are NOT child-proof. Unfortunately, that makes them even easier to access by my grand children when they come over. I’ll have to relocate them where I CAN (and they CAN’T) retrieve them. I also see I have old medications that I have kept beyond their expiration date and plan to find a drug disposal site soon.

    A timely and timeless article!

  4. Edna Homer permalink
    April 27, 2012

    Thank you very much for your important message. These ideas very helpfull me and my family in West Papua.

  5. April 28, 2012

    Thanks for the info, Meghan! Yes, you’re right, medicine must be in a safe place where children can’t reach especially disposable medicine!

  6. April 28, 2012

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  7. April 30, 2012

    Thanks for explaining the disposal of medicine. It’s very important .

  8. May 1, 2012

    Great article post..Thanks for sharing here.keep on posting..

  9. May 3, 2012

    Your article is very good. It is very useful for me

  10. May 17, 2012

    This is a great article, and a great topic to explore. Thanks for sharing.

  11. May 24, 2012

    Appreciative post…

  12. June 20, 2012

    Good post!

  13. July 2, 2012

    Great content..

  14. July 18, 2012

    perfect site because all qualities included in this site….

  15. July 19, 2012

    Safe disposal of medicine is very much essential. Thanks for talking about such an important topic.

  16. July 25, 2012

    I really appreciate your hard work Meghan, thank you.

  17. August 3, 2012

    You have covered the topic quite well, there must be a proper medicine disposal mechanism in place…

  18. August 7, 2012

    Good point Patrick!I’ll have to try some of these for my subject lines as well ….Cheers,

  19. August 13, 2012

    I prefer this site completely……Thank you very much for your important message.

  20. james permalink
    August 26, 2012

    Nice and informative article, thanks for sharing.

  21. Customer Service Training permalink
    November 27, 2012

    Wonderful to hear about the safe disposal of Medicine. Too many people ending lives today because of this.

  22. LED Grow Lights permalink
    January 18, 2013

    I never considered not just throwing away old prescriptions. I used to just put them in the garbage.

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    January 18, 2013

    I don’t understand why they don’t have bins for this on every corner?

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    February 2, 2013

    I really appreciate your hard work…:)

  25. cer permalink
    February 27, 2013

    Very useful information. I was very pleased. Thanks

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    March 23, 2013

    very nice work, keep it comming!

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    April 2, 2013

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  28. toronto payday loans permalink
    April 9, 2013

    Awesome tips.. It’s really important to place all the medicines where kids won’t be able to reach.

  29. nelson permalink
    April 13, 2013

    Ow some! i will visit this site to get different benefits because, very informative and thanks for commenting.

  30. Leoda permalink
    May 11, 2013

    Thanks for the info, Yes, you’re right, medicine must be in a safe place where children can’t reach especially disposable medicine but other medicine!

  31. Seo marketing permalink
    September 14, 2013

    This is truly an eye opener to some that really don’t know “WHY they are always told to dispose their medicine safely”
    Let’s all enjoy life and not abuse the use of medical pills.

  32. healthcare payer bpo permalink
    September 24, 2013

    This is really nice article. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article

  33. Seattle SEO Company permalink
    November 5, 2013

    Are there any designated drug take-back locations that are in Seattle?

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