[Pharmwaste] Drs. Oz & Roizen: Take advantage of authorized drug disposal programs

Ed Gottlieb EGottlieb at cityofithaca.org
Tue Nov 29 10:09:23 EST 2016

The famous Drs. Oz & Roizen make a clear argument for take back and against home disposal.

There’s a big push in my community to take old, unused meds to a designated pharmacy or police station for disposal. But what do they do with them? Is it any better than throwing them in the trash at home or flushing them down the toilet?

— Jillian F., Vancouver, Washington

There’s been a lot of concern lately about medications turning up in inland waterways, local water supplies, even the ocean. The pollution comes from the pharmaceutical waste we put through sewage treatment plants that usually doesn’t get filtered out and goes back into rivers. That includes meds that were flushed down the toilet (including your pet’s meds), plus traces of medications you’re taking that are found in your urine and stool. Some pharmaceutical pollution even comes from landfills. As early as 2000, the U.S. Geological Survey found one or more medications in 80 percent of water samples from 139 streams in 30 states. The drugs included antibiotics, antidepressants, blood thinners, ACE inhibitors, calcium-channel blockers, digoxin, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and painkillers. More recent samples have shown evidence of everything from caffeine and chemicals in fragrances, to anti-seizure and anticholesterol meds. And it’s affecting the coastal ocean water as well.

Exposure to even a small amount of estrogen can make male fish produce eggs and damage female fish’s reproductive processes, devastating a population. Diluted solutions of psychiatric drugs have been found to alter fish behavior. So bravo for your community’s efforts. When you leave old meds (even ordinary over-the-counter stuff like cough meds and topical creams for sore muscles) at a “take back your meds” facility, they’re transported to a collection site and then sent on to a high-temperature incinerator. These incinerators are made up of a primary combustion chamber and an afterburner connected to an air pollution control system, all of which are controlled and monitored.

You can find a drop-off spot at a pharmacy or police station near you by Googling “DEA Authorized Collector Location.”

Ed Gottlieb
Chair, Coalition for Safe Medication Disposal
Industrial Pretreatment Coordinator
Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility
525 3rd Street
Ithaca, NY  14850
(607) 273-8381
fax: (607) 273-8433
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