[Pharmwaste] Drugs in drinking water focus of new publicity campaign

Tenace, Laurie Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Wed Sep 2 10:10:20 EDT 2009


Drugs in drinking water focus of new publicity campaign
By ADRIANA COLINDRES (adriana.colindres at sj-r.com)
Posted Sep 02, 2009 @ 11:30 PM

Heightened concerns over the quality of drinking water are spurring a
campaign to discourage people from disposing of old medications by simply
flushing them down a drain or toilet.

The campaign is proceeding along multiple fronts.

*Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed into law a measure that bars health care
facilities from dumping unused medicines into public wastewater systems. The
law, which takes effect Jan. 1, imposes a $500 fine on offenders.

*Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Doug Scott can be heard on
radio public service announcements alerting people about the proper disposal
of medications.

*Pontiac Township High School teacher Paul Ritter works with students and
anyone else who wants to spread the message.

"I'm amazed at the number of people who go, yeah, we'll help -- every day,"
Ritter said.

One of those was Jamie Bates, a pharmacy student and pharmacy technician at
Michelle's Pharmacy in Carlinville. She sought Ritter's input as she
spearheaded a recent one-day pharmaceutical-collection event at the business.
A permanent collection program will be established there "in the near
future," she said.

The event was a big success, she said, with about 50 people dropping off
nearly 70 pounds worth of old medications. Police were on hand to accept
controlled substances, such as Vicodin or other pain-killers.

Sen. Susan Garrett, a Lake Forest Democrat who sponsored the new law, called
the measure "an important baby step" toward ensuring that drinking water
supplies are safe.

"What makes this such an important issue is we don't know what the impact of
these pharmaceuticals may be on people's systems," she said.

Scott said the issue gained prominence in 2008, when The Associated Press
found tiny concentrations of many kinds of pharmaceuticals in drinking water

The IEPA tested some of Illinois' water supplies and also found trace amounts
of pharmaceuticals - though not enough to pose an immediate threat to humans,
Scott said.

"That doesn't mean that, in the long term, it isn't something we shouldn't
pay attention to," he said.

The agency spent about $75,000 on collection programs throughout the state
during the fiscal year that ended June 30. IEPA spokeswoman Annie Thompson
said the agency expects to spend about $75,000 again this year for
pharmaceutical collections.


Adriana Colindres can be reached at 782-6292.


Don't throw old, unused medicines in the sink or toilet, the Illinois
Environmental Protection Agency advises, because they'll contaminate the
water supply. Burning them is a bad idea, too, the IEPA says.

Instead, the IEPA offers the following recommendations:

*Reduce pharmaceutical waste when possible by taking all doses of prescribed
antibiotics and by buying only as much aspirin or other medicine as can be
used before the expiration date.

*Take unused pharmaceuticals to a designated pharmaceutical-collection
program or to an IEPA-sponsored household hazardous waste collection event,
if possible.

*Throw old medicines in the trash. First, remove all labels. Next, make the
medicines less appealing to children or thieves by dissolving pills in a
small amount of water or alcohol, or by grinding them into pieces and mixing
them into cat litter or coffee grounds. Finally, place them in a plastic bag
or similar container and hide them with other trash.

For more information, go to www.epa.state.il.us and click on the box labeled
"Medication Disposa

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 

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