Sunday, February 15, 2009

What Is the Harm In Dumping My Expired Medication?

After posting my findings on how awesome Tropicana is to do their little part to get Green, I was surprised to read a comment from Julie regarding my disposal of the expired medication cluttering up my bathroom.

“You haven't been dumping them down the toilet or into the trash, I hope. Old meds, be they prescription or OTC, should be taken to a pharmacy/drugstore to be properly disposed. Otherwise, they'll more likely end up back in our water supply or "infecting" our soil. Just a PSA!”

As a kid we were always taught not to take any medications that had expired as they could be dangerous and/or not even work to help with the problem we were facing. I have always thrown away anything that was old or washed it down the sink, as I’m sure a lot of people out there have, because it was what I had always done when replacing with a fresh bottle so Julie’s comment woke me up. Because I am a gal who likes to have all the facts in order before I either debate or take the advice of someone else, I decided to do some research into what Pharmacies do with expired medications once we return them into their capable hands.

There are a slew of websites out there who all offer the exact same advice -- do not flush any medications down the toilet as waste treatment facilities do not have the capacity to handle filtration of every type of drug and those drugs could end up back in the public water supply so a local pharmacy, doctor or hospital should be contacted to retrieve and properly dispose of the medications. It was just as Julie had recommended!

My first stop was directly to the Walgreens website as this is the most prevalent local pharmacy in the area. I was surprised to learn the Federal government released drug safety disposal methods almost two years ago. Please feel free to visit the page where I gained the information that various governmental agencies endorse. In the end I visited approximately six online sources and discovered that most pharmacies who do accept these drugs end up sending them out to be incinerated.

Through this research I did come across some information that raised my red flag meter -- “don’t believe everything you read”; each of us needs to use our best judgment to dispose of old medications in the safest way possible for both the environment at large as well as our own personal environment. Two examples of scary information follow. I will point out however that not everything was scary, these websites also contain exceptional tips. Again, listen to your gut.

☼ “there are organizations that donate expired medicine to third world countries. Even though your medicine may have expired, it may still be good long past the printed date. (Only professionals can determine this.) Rather than have it waste away in your medicine cabinet, why not donate it where it will be put to good use?” From wiseGEEK. I believe that redistributing expired medications, prescription or not, is completely illegal so this is something I would love clarification on if anyone has additional information.

☼ “If you're tossing liquid medication, you can minimize the chance that a child will drink it by putting something terrible-tasting in it, like cayenne pepper.” From Baby Center. This is a tip for how to prevent little ones from getting their hands on medications and it sounds a little odd to me. Yes cayenne pepper is a strong flavor however the child would have to drink the liquid to know this was in there. Unknown ounces might be ingested before they stop tasting it.

The best suggestions I came across today came from as they seemed rational, logical and truthful. I am not endorsing any one method over another but I will certainly do my best to be mindful of the local and global environmental impact my drug disposal has in all future instances. Again, we all make personal choices in these matters so the more information we can be armed with on all sides, the better.


Bridgete said...

Huh. Good point. I think I just threw out some ibuprofin, right into the trash...but I'll remember this next time.

Hyla said...

I just linked to this article