Prescription Drug Disposal

Safe Disposal of Medicine

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 here 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.

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National Drug Take-Back Day

By Lina Younes

I remember when I was a teenager and I would regularly go through the medicine cabinet checking the expiration dates of medications. Since my father was a physician, he would often get samples from pharmaceutical companies promoting their wares. With time, these samples piled up and ended up in the trash unused. I thought nothing of it back then.

Several decades later we have seen several reports on the presence of pharmaceuticals in water and the potential risks to human health and aquatic life. EPA and its federal partners are taking steps to address the issue regarding public education and proper disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in water. However, have you stopped to think what you can do at home?

Well, for starters, there is going to be a National Drug Take-Back Day at a location near you on September 25th. The main objective is to allow individuals to drop off their excess prescription and over-the-counter medications at select collection centers for proper disposal. The benefits will be threefold. First, by removing these unused medications in your home, you’ll prevent unintentional poisonings of children, the elderly and pets. Secondly, by participating in this “take-back” event, you’ll avoid having these drugs from contaminating our environment. Thirdly, you’ll also prevent prescription drugs from falling into the wrong hands. In essence, it’s a win-win throughout: protecting public health and safety, taking care of the environment and cleaning out your medicine cabinet all for a good cause. After the event, the medications will be disposed of properly with minimum impact on the environment. Please visit this website and plug in your zip code to find a collection site near you. It’s that simple.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

One Amazing Accomplishment from One Teenager

A colleague of mine suggested I read about a runner-up President’s Environmental Youth Award applicant named Jordyn. I started reading Jordyn’s application and thought to myself, “wow, she was a runner-up?”, she should be named the young environmentalist of the year!

After reading that 80% of waterways tested in 30 states had trace amounts of pharmaceuticals and hearing about “pharm parties,” where teens bring pills from home, mix them in a bowl, and blindly take a couple, Jordyn decided to take action! Jordyn, a freshman at the time, decided to create WI P2D2 (Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal) to educate her town about prescription-drug abuse and environmentally safe pill disposal.

JordynJordyn used some amazingly inventive communication tools to deliver her message including; a “Phil the Pill” costume, and a clear glass of water in which she placed pills and asked her audience if they would now like to take a drink. None of them did!

She secured a community drop-box for unwanted pills, used Facebook, YouTube, and T-shirts to get the word out, and persuaded local pharmacists and police officers to help.

Jordyn is the first teen to have written and been awarded state and local grants to secure funds for a drug collection event. At her first event, Jordyn collected an astonishing 440 pounds of drugs! Her accomplishments have been featured in numerous media outlets in both America and Canada.

Jordyn’s program is a perfect example of a multi-disiplinary solution to a multi-faceted local problem. If even a small percentage of the upcoming generations are as successful at improving their environment as Jordyn, I believe the environment will be in great hands. It strikes me that if a teenager can accomplish so much, as adult environmentalists we should follow her example, and never accept anything but complete success. Maybe we can convince her to work for EPA one day!

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 13 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.