If you have old prescription medicines that you want to get rid of, don’t throw them away or flush them down the toilet. Proper disposal is important to help protect water quality, because items that aren’t disposed of the right way can end up contaminating drinking water. Many communities throughout the Brazos River basin are participating in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Take Back Day scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22.
In addition to the potential contamination of our drinking water system, there are also immediate health reasons for getting old medications out of your home: “These expired drugs can pose significant health hazards to toddlers, teens and even family pets who may inadvertently consume medications,” according to a DEA press release. “Some medications are so potent that even one dose could be fatal if accidentally ingested. Throwing away certain medications in trash cans or flushing them down the toilet can be a safety and health hazard, too.”
The nationwide Take Back Day is usually held twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. The event is making a difference. The Public Affairs Department of the DEA notes that a Take Back Day held earlier in 2016 resulted in state and local law enforcement groups collecting 893,498 pounds of unwanted medicines — about 447 tons — at almost 5,400 sites spread through all 50 states, beating its previous high of 390 tons in the spring of 2014 by 57 tons, or more than 114,000 pounds.
Texas led the way during the collection event, with almost 40 tons of unwanted and outdated prescription drugs turned in, followed by California with 32 tons, Wisconsin with 31 tons, and Illinois and Massachusetts, each with 24 tons.
Items accepted at Take Back locations include prescription medicines, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, pet medicines, medicated ointments and lotions, inhalers and medicine samples.
The Take Back Day helps to prevent medication accidents, thefts and misuse, while also helping to protect water quality.
A report by the Environmental Protection Agency notes that samples were taken from wastewater treatment plants nationwide and tested for 56 drugs including oxycodone, high-blood pressure medications, and over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol and ibuprofen. More than half the samples tested positive for at least 25 of the drugs monitored, the study said. High blood pressure medications appeared in the highest concentrations and most frequently.
Since both wastewater and potable water treatment plants are not designed to remove pharmaceutical drugs from the water, the best way to keep our water safe is to eliminate putting the drugs into the system in the first place through proper disposal of unneeded drugs.
For a list of agencies and locations in your area that are participating in the event, click here.