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Keep Drugs Out of Drinking Water

  • by
  • October 24, 2011
  • 9:30 pm
Keep Drugs Out of Drinking Water


By Sheryl Eisenberg

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: pharmaceuticals in our drinking water. With drugs, it seems, there are always unintended side effects.

What to do? On National Take Back Day on this Saturday, October 29, 2011, you can bring those old drugs to a local collection site near you for safe disposal.

The problem of drugs in drinking water already affects more than 40 million Americans according to a 2008 investigation by the Associated Press of water systems in two dozen major metropolitan areas. If more water systems were studied, the number of people affected would surely be higher.

Flushing old drugs down the toilet isn’t the only cause of the problem, but NOT flushing would help reduce it. Dumping drugs in the trash willy nilly is not a good alternative, as the drugs might leach out of the landfill into groundwater, which also supplies people with drinking water.

Read Safe Disposal of Old Drugs for more information on this issue and other ways to dispose of drugs safely.


Sheryl Eisenberg is the author of This Green Life, a monthly journal of sorts published by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). She is a writer, web developer and long-time advisor to NRDC. Sheryl is based in New York City. To subscribe to This Green Life, click here.


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1:31PM PST on Nov 12, 2011

it comes down to people being too lazy to properly dispose of their drugs...

6:36AM PDT on Oct 27, 2011

great information, thanks

10:13PM PDT on Oct 26, 2011

I take any left over or outdated drugs i have to my pharmacist at Shopper's Drug Mart. They dispose of them in an evironmentally safe way.

5:12PM PDT on Oct 26, 2011's about time people got wise to what we are doing to the environment and our own health. The only Rx drug I take is Doxy when I have Lyme Disease and there is never any medicine left to dispose of. I agree that the vast majority of Americans are over medicated but with Big Pharma buying elections and giving lavish gifts to doctors, the problem may not improve any time soon.

10:18AM PDT on Oct 26, 2011

Not just drugs keep everything out that polluted our waters. Carpet Cleaning Service

8:18AM PDT on Oct 26, 2011

I only hope its not too late in a vast amount of areas including this one. They claim birth control in peoples urine is messing up things so why not all the other chemical romances. I HAD to see a doctor for dental reasons, got the ok bill of health and the next day he's trying to push statins on me after a mere 15minutes in my presences. Thankfully I investigated these monsters pharmaceutical companies and their minion physicians are pushing down a staggering amount of people throats let alone all the other garbage that keeps them in the money.

7:04AM PDT on Oct 26, 2011

Thanks to all of you for reading and responding to this post. We hope you will all participate in National Take Back Day this Saturday, Oct. 29 (go to for a list of collection sites near you).

To those of you who asked how pharmacies like Walgreens and Rite Aid safely dispose of drugs after they're collected: the drugs are collected in envelopes and then incinerated. The ashes are then reincorporated into green building materials and other uses, rather than being sent to a landfill. More information on that here:

If you don't live near a collection site, Sheryl tells you how to safely dispose of drugs at home in this article:

Keep the comments and questions coming. Thanks for reading!

4:48AM PDT on Oct 26, 2011

Thank you for the information...

2:34AM PDT on Oct 26, 2011

To those who don't know, Walgreens will take your old drugs and recycle for a cause to those who can't afford them. It keeps them out of the water ways and sewer water which in most city's is your drinking water. Recycle for a cause. It may save someone's life.

2:33AM PDT on Oct 26, 2011

To those who don't know, Walgreens will take your old drugs and recycle for a cause to those who can't afford them. It keeps them out of the water ways and sewer water which in most city's is your drinking water. Recycle for a cause. It may save someone's life.

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