Disposing of old, expired and/or unneeded medications is tricky. You don’t want kids, teens or pets to get a hold of them (or drug abusers for that matter), so you might think the old recommendation to flush them down the toilet is good advice. But this practice solves one problem only to create another. With drugs, it seems, there are always unwanted side effects.
Flushed drugs too often end up in waterways that supply us with water to drink. Water treatment plants don’t neutralize or screen them out, so they turn up in our tap water eventually (and may also be present in some of the bottled waters that come from tap).
A large share of the American public is already affected. According to a 2008 investigation by the Associated Press, drinking water is contaminated with pharmaceuticals for over 40 million Americans in two dozen major metropolitan areas. If other water systems were studied, the number would surely be higher.
What to do? The best solution is to dispose of your unwanted drugs through a take-back program, which will get rid of your medications in a safe, environmentally sound way. If your community doesn’t have an ongoing program, take advantage of National Take Back Day on Saturday, October 29, 2011 when there will be take-back events across the country. For other options, read Safe Disposal of Old Drugs.