[Pharmwaste] DEP Tests Show Prescription Drugs Leaching FromLandfills (Maine)

Sue Dayton sdayton at swcp.com
Mon Feb 1 07:25:09 EST 2010


Does anyone have the name of a lab (besides USGS) that can test for

Thanks, Sue 

Sue Dayton
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
North Carolina Healthy Communities Program
Saxapahaw, NC 27340
(336) 525-2003
sdayton at swcp.com

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
-  Martin Luther King Jr.



-----Original Message-----
From: pharmwaste-bounces at lists.dep.state.fl.us
[mailto:pharmwaste-bounces at lists.dep.state.fl.us] On Behalf Of Tenace,
Sent: Friday, January 15, 2010 8:03 AM
To: Pharmwaste at lists.dep.state.fl.us
Subject: [Pharmwaste] DEP Tests Show Prescription Drugs Leaching
FromLandfills (Maine)

DEP Tests Show Prescription Drugs Leaching From Landfills

01/14/2010 05:50 PM ET   Reported By: Susan Sharon

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection says it now has enough
evidence to prove that unwanted prescription drugs being tossed into local
landfills pose a threat to surface and groundwater supplies around the
state. New test results of leachate at three Maine landfills show high
concentrations of a wide range of pharmaceuticals. And the findings are
likely to boost support for a bill to require drug companies to collect and
dispose of unused medication.

"Prove it." That's what Mark Hyland of the DEP's Bureau of Remediation and
Waste Management says drug makers asked him to do. For a long time they had
argued that if unused medication shouldn't be flushed down the toilet
because of the risk to ground and surface water, then the best option was to
throw it out with the trash until someone could show them evidence that that
also posed a threat.

But now Hyland says he can prove that prescription drugs are showing up in
water that collects at three Maine landfills: in Augusta, Brunswick and
Bath. "And what we found was that the landfill leachate includes things like
antidepressants, antibiotics, steroids, hormones, heart and asthma
medications and a lot of pain medications, kind of the usual group of
pharmaceuticals that you would see anywhere," Hyland says.

Leachate, the rainwater that percolates through the landfill and collects at
the bottom, typically flows to a wastewater treatment plant. But unlike
human waste that can be treated, pharmaceuticals cannot. And this
contaminated water negatively affects aquatic organisms, fish and other

Hyland says the wide-ranging spectrum of medication found in the leachate
and some of the high concentrations were surprising. "There hasn't been a
lot of testing," he says. "U.S. Geological Survey has done some testing,
mostly in the western part of the United States, and we were surprised at
some of the levels we saw."

Hyland says the findings are likely to boost support for a controversial
bill carried over from the last legislative session. Sponsored by
Representative Anne Perry, the bill would require drug companies that
distribute medication in Maine also be responsible for collecting and
properly disposing of unwanted drugs in medical waste incinerators.

Not surprisingly, Perry says the drug comapnies are opposed to the idea.
"Essentially they don't want to do it. I mean that's really where they're

A spokesman for the drug research and manufacturers group known as PhRMA was
unable to be reached for comment for this story. But in the past, Perry
says, PhRMA has objected to what it says would be the bill's high costs --
upwards of $20 million -- and intensive requirements.

Perry says she has tried to make the legislation more palatable for the
industry by removing some testing and study provisions. She says she's also
put a cap on expenses for the first three years of the program.

"I really wanted an opportunity to really work with the pharmaceutical
companies because my hope and intent is to get this passed, and with the
passage with this we've got to have something that is doable for the
pharmaceutical companies, and I'd really wanted to do that."

A registered nurse, Perry says her research shows that in 2008 about 2.7
million prescriptions were written in Maine. Some estimates suggest as many
as half of the medication prescribed is thrown out or sits on the shelf of a
medicine cabinet somewhere unused.

Mark Hyland of the DEP says this poses a threat to people as well as the
environment. "The main concern that there's a lot of accidental poisonings
that go on, people that take prescriptions that they shouldn't be taking,
children that take prescriptions that they shouldn't be taking and drug
overdoses from prescription drugs."

Maine has a higher death rate from overdoses than car accidents. Even if
most of the medication is consumed and expelled in human waste or flushed
down the toilet, Perry says the remainder, however small, is a problem that
ought to be addressed. A work session on her bill is scheduled for Tuesday.

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:

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