Sunday, November 11, 2007

Safe Disposal of Medication


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Earlier this year the U.S. government released new guidelines on how to safely dispose of unneeded prescription medication. Unfortunately, they failed to consider environmental safety in developing their recommendations and their advice directly contradicts that of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Office of National Drug Control Policy's recommendations are intended to keep children and pets from accidentally ingesting unused medication. They suggest you crush pills and either mix them in with used kitty litter in the garbage or, for certain items, flush them down the toilet. Both are bad ideas.

Instead, you should contact the agency responsible for collection of hazardous waste in your city or county and ask them where to take your unused medications. Earth 911's website is a great resource for determining where to dispose of all kinds of waste products in your area: Earth 911.org. You can also visit your city or county's website and look for information about disposal of hazardous household waste.

Alternatively, you can often return unused medication to the pharmacy for safe disposal. Just make sure you ask enough questions to know whether the pharmacy will take care of the medication in a responsible fashion. You might as well throw the pills in the trash yourself if that is what they will do. You want to know they will do something to keep the pills out of the landfills and waterways.

Earth 911 recently featured a three-part series on its blog discussing safe, responsible disposal of medication. It's highly informative and well worth reading, especially if you're wondering why this issue is important. These articles provide more details. But in a nutshell, research has shown there is such an abundance of female hormones in our waterways that fish are being affected. The EPA has said that male fish in the U.S., Japan, the UK and Europe are becoming feminized. Creepy, right? Scientists speculate this is causing similar negative effects on human beings.
Sources:
- Federal Government Issues New Guidelines for Proper Disposal of Prescription Drugs
- Why are Pharmaceuticals Hazardous?
- Tips for Tossing Leftover Meds
- EPA: Assessment of Potential Ecological Effects
- Prescription Drug Disposal

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