Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Disposal of Unused Medicines-Concern Grows over Environmental Impacts

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Disposal of Unused Medicines-Concern Grows over Environmental Impacts

Article excerpt

It used to be thought that the best way to dispose of old or leftover medicine was to flush it down the toilet. That way children and animals wouldn't inadvertently become poisoned. But environmental scientists are now warning people: "Do not flush."

Antibiotics, hormones, painkillers, antidepressants, and an array of other medications are finding their way into the nation's waterways--raising disturbing questions about potential health and environmental effects, according to the Associated Press article, "Flushing Expired Drugs No Longer Recommended." Besides individuals who flush prescriptions, nursing homes dispose of anywhere between $73 million and $378 million worth of drugs each year. Some of these drugs are incinerated, but many are flushed.

U.S. EPA is studying whether to develop formal recommendations for what to do with old or leftover drugs. "Flushing medication down the toilet is probably the least desirable of the alternatives," says Christian Daughton of U.S. EPA's Las Vegas laboratory.

Studies have linked hormone exposure to reproductive side effects in fish (see "They're in the Water. They Make Fish Change Sex. Endocrine Disruptors. What Are They Doing to You?" in On Tap, Winter 2003). …

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