[Pharmwaste] collection at local pharmacy

Tenace, Laurie Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Tue May 5 08:35:02 EDT 2009

Page 2 at the web site. Check out the photos (there are more than one) - it
looks like the drugs are being left in an open fish bowl on the counter!! 


For Old Drugs, New Tricks
Advice Veers Away From Flushing Unused Pills

By Susan Q. Stranahan
Special to The Washington Post 
Tuesday, May 5, 2009 

At the Leesburg Pharmacy, located in a Loudoun County strip mall, a big,
round fish tank sits atop the prescription counter. There are no fish inside,
not even any water: The tank is a repository for unused medications. People
can drop off the Vicodin that didn't get used once the pain of a root canal
subsided. Or the heart pills remaining after a grandmother's death. Or an
asthma inhaler that had passed its expiration date. Or an antidepressant that
turned out to have unpleasant side effects. 

This Story
For Old Drugs, New Tricks
Down the Drain? Maybe Not.
Once a week, the tank is emptied; the drugs are packed in cartons by pharmacy
personnel and ultimately incinerated by a commercial waste firm. 

"Our customers are thrilled because they had no idea what else to do with
this stuff," said Cheri Garvin, chief executive of the employee-owned

These are customers who are trying to do the responsible thing. Over the
years, Americans have been alerted to the dangers of a lot of problematic
waste materials -- paint thinner, batteries, air conditioners. But leftover
pills can seem so small, so easily disposable, that many people routinely
flush them down toilets, wash them down sinks or throw them in trash that
goes to a landfill. 

And then they often end up in places where they shouldn't be, like the public
water supply. 

The average American takes more than 12 prescription drugs annually, with
more than 3.8 billion prescriptions purchased each year, according to the
Kaiser Family Foundation. The most commonly cited estimates from
Environmental Protection Agency researchers say that about 19 million tons of
active pharmaceutical ingredients are dumped into the nation's waste stream
every year. 

The EPA has identified small quantities of more than 100 pharmaceuticals and
personal-care products in samples of the nation's drinking water. Among the
drugs detected are antibiotics, steroids, hormones and antidepressants. Last
year, the Associated Press reported that trace amounts of drugs had been
found in the water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas; water piped to
more than a milllion people in the Washington area had tested positive for
six pharmaceuticals. 

The EPA does not require testing for drugs in drinking water and has not set
safety limits on allowable levels. While the minute quantities now being
detected appear not to pose an immediate health risk, according to federal
authorities, "there is still uncertainty about their potential effects on
public health and aquatic life" over the long term, the EPA's water chief,
Benjamin Grumbles, told a Senate committee last year. But the impact of
long-term exposure of drugs on humans as well as on other species is less
clear. Hormone-disrupting pharmaceuticals, for example, are one possible
cause of a high incidence of "intersex" fish in the Potomac River basin: male
smallmouth bass producing eggs, females exhibiting male characteristics. 

Until recently, federal guidelines recommended that surpluses of highly toxic
medications be flushed down the toilet; the same advice applied to drugs with
a high potential for abuse or "diversion" -- the industry's word for what
happens, for example, when kids help themselves to the OxyContin or Percocet
in their parents' medicine cabinet. For other drugs, consumers have been
directed to adulterate the medication by mixing it with an unpalatable
substance -- such as cat litter or coffee grounds -- and put it out with the
household trash. 

But this spring, concerns about pharmaceuticals in the water supply led the
Office of National Drug Control Policy to amend its advisory, telling
consumers to avoid flushing unless the label or patient information specifies
that method of disposal. The new guidelines still describe the cat-litter
method of putting drugs in the trash, but they also encourage consumers to
make use of community drug take-back programs. 

And that's the problem: In much of the country, including the Washington
area, drug take-back sites like the Leesburg Pharmacy are almost impossible
to find. An informal survey of the District and 10 surrounding jurisdictions
turned up no city- or county-organized drug disposal programs. 

"We are farther ahead with recycling our garbage than we are with recycling
drugs," said Babs Buchheister, the nursing director of Calvert County. 

Laurie Tenace
Environmental Specialist
Waste Reduction Section
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Rd., MS 4555
Tallahassee FL 32399-2400
P: 850.245.8759
F: 850.245.8811
Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us 

Mercury: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/categories/mercury/default.htm 

Unwanted Medicine:

The Department of Environmental 

Protection values your feedback as a customer. DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole is committed to continuously assessing and 

improving the level and quality of services provided to you. Please take a few minutes to comment on the quality of 

service you received. Copy the url below to a web browser to complete the DEP 

survey: http://survey.dep.state.fl.us/?refemail=Laurie.Tenace@dep.state.fl.us Thank you in advance for completing the survey.

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