"Safe Disposal of Unused Drugs"

By Joyce Haynes

Often on television and in the movies, characters are shown disposing drugs either in the drain or flushed down the toilet. At one time this "out of sight, out of mind" practice may have been acceptable, but today it should be taboo.

The average citizen is becoming more aware of where water comes from and where it goes. Groups such as the Elk River Watershed Improvement Association (ERWIA) are working hard to educate the public on the impacts of our limited resource of clean water.

On March 25, 2009, the Associated Press released an update for the findings of the first nationwide study of human drugs in fish tissue. The results have prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to significantly expand more similar research in 150 different locations.

Pharmaceuticals were found in fish across the U.S. The tested fish were caught in rivers where wastewater treatment plants release treated sewage. Scientist believe that much of the contamination comes from the unmetabolized residues of pharmaceuticals that people have taken and excreted; unused medications dumped down the drain also contribute to the problem.

Trace concentrations of seven drugs and two soap scent chemicals were found in fish at all of the urban river sites tested. Some of the fish had combinations of all five of the compounds in their livers.So what is the correct way to dispose of unused medicines?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the proper disposal of prescription drugs is as follows:

* Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.

* If no instructions are given, throw the drugs in the household trash, but first: Take them out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. The medication will be less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash.

* Put them in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.

* Take advantage of community drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. The nearest one is in Bella Vista in front of the police station, just drop your drugs into the designated box outside of the building.

When you need to dispose of unused drugs remember to chose one of the methods above. What we pour down our drains goes into our rivers, streams and lakes and back again to us.

ERWIA is dedicated to restoring and protecting the land and water resources in the Elk River Watershed, and everyone in the watershed has a role and responsibility. Do your part to help maintain our watershed.

We invite you to join ERWIA, membership is only $5. Please visit our website at www.erwia.org.