A recent study shows that 80 percent of U.S. Streams contain small amounts of human medicines. Sewage systems cannot remove these medicines from water that is released into lakes, rivers and oceans. Fish and other aquatic animals have shown adverse effects from human medicines in the water.
In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey sampled streams in 30 states. Of the 139 streams tested, 80 percent had measurable concentrations of prescription and nonprescription drugs, steroids, and reproductive hormones.
Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals and studies show exposure to even low levels of drugs has negative effects on fish and other aquatic species, and also may negatively affect human health. Thus, we recommend households do not dispose of waste medication down the drain or down the toilet. This includes any prescription or nonprescription substances intended to be swallowed, inhaled, injected, applied to the skin or eyes, or otherwise absorbed.
How to Properly Dispose of Medications to Prevent Abuse
Here is a step-by-step guide:
1. Keep medicine in its original child-resistant container.
2. Scratch or mark out the patient information on the label.
3. Place some water into the containers for solid medications, such as
pills or capsules.
4. Add something nontoxic that tastes bad, such as sawdust, kitty litter,
charcoal or powdered spices (for example, cayenne pepper).
5. Close and seal the container lids tightly with packing or duct tape.
6. If discarding blister packs of unused medicines, wrap in multiple
layers of duct tape.
7. Place medicine containers in durable packaging that does not show
inside (such as a cardboard box).
8. Place in the trash close to garbage pickup time.
Studies show exposure to even low levels of drugs has negative effects on fish and other aquatic species, and also may negatively affect human health. This website offers guidance to help the public dispose of medication waste in a safe, efficient and environmentally sound manner, using methods that are convenient, cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally sound (PRC 47120 (a)).
- Household Medication Waste Disposal. Learn how to safely dispose of your home-generated medication.
- Medication Manufacturers and Collectors Resources. Resources to help pharmaceutical manufacturers and collectors dispose of home-generated medication safely and efficiently.
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