Flush or Drain, Will Cause a Strain
By Trey Cody
Do you, like many other Americans, look into your medicine cabinet and see bottles of unused prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs? Being in the bathroom with a sink and toilet readily available, your first thought may be to simply flush or dispose of them down the drain. Yes, pills are water soluble, but this solution may have negative outcomes.
When flushed and drained, it’s possible for pharmaceuticals to get into our streams, rivers and lakes. This is because drugs, including antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids are not always removed completely at waste water treatment facilities. Continued exposure to low levels of pharmaceuticals in our water systems may alter the behavior and physiology of the fish and other aquatic organisms who call it home. EPA has been working with other federal agencies and state and local government partners to better understand the implications low levels of pharmaceuticals in water, the potential effects on aquatic organisms and if there is an impact on human health.
Though flushing and draining is not the only way pharmaceuticals enter our wastewater, it’s one we can do something about.
April 28, 2012 is the next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day issued by the Drug Enforcement Administration. During this time you can drop off your unwanted drugs at many participating municipal locations, where they will be disposed of safely and properly. The last event collected over 188.5 tons of unwanted or expired medications at the 5,327 take-back sites that were available in all 50 states.
But you don’t have to wait until April to dispose of your old meds. You can contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service to find if there are drop off locations in your area. If all else fails, you can dispose of drugs in your household trash by following a few simple steps.
How do you dispose of your unwanted pharmaceuticals? Have you participated in any take back programs? Do you have any suggestions of how to improve programs like these? Let us know!
The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.
EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.
EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.