Poughkeepsie Journal
Sunday, April 10, 2005

Don't flush your old medications

Dear Annie - How does one dispose of unused medication? I am a member of a non-advocacy group interested in the protection and improvement of our watershed and creek.

One of our members said if we are asking people not to put anything nonbiodegradable down drains, why are we instructing people to discard old  prescriptions and other outdated medicines in the toilet?

Our sewage treatment facilities are not designed to filter out pharmaceuticals,  and those of us using septic tanks and cesspools are introducing this toxic waste directly into the water table, where we and our neighbors are pumping it up and drinking it. Untreated.

Studies have shown large trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in our surface water, as well as in fish. How can we safely discard these used prescriptions  in a more environmentally friendly way? Can they be returned to the drugstore for recycling?

Please help.

- Dan Troge, Conservation Advisory Council and the Fishkill Creek Watershed Committee, N.Y.

Dear Dan Troge - We thought your question was interesting and found it a little frightening that we may be getting anti-depressants and hormone therapy through our water. We spoke to Phillippa Cannon at the EPA, who told us there are no federal rules for disposing of unused or old medication.

The EPA does NOT recommend flushing them. It says to take such medication to Household Hazardous Waste Events. (You can contact your state environmental agency to find out when and where.) You also can call 1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687) (www.1800cleanup.org) for information.

We also suggest checking your local pharmacy. Walgreens will accept the return of many prescription drugs. CVS Pharmacy recently worked with the EPA on a pilot program in Maine, at which folks returned unused or old prescription drugs for disposal. Many pharmacies in Canada have recycling programs, and Health Canada is hoping to develop a national education campaign on the proper disposal for products regulated under the Food and Drug Act.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, veteran editors of the Ann Landers column.

- Household Hazardous Waste Events in NY State do not accept medications.
   See the NY DEC's HHW page and the US EPA's HHW page.
- The program in Maine is now a Public Law. See the Maine Law page.

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