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.