Whenever you turn on the tap, you expect the water to be reasonably pure, not contaminated with a variety of pharmaceutical drugs. But, studies show that trace amounts of pharmaceuticals can be found in tap water because water treatment plants are not designed to remove these substances in the purification process.
In an effort to help reduce these potential contaminants, communities throughout the nation, including several in the Brazos River basin, are participating in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Takeback Day, which allows people to dispose properly of outdated and unneeded prescription drugs they may have in their homes.
Not only does the program help keep municipal water supplies clean, but it also helps keep prescription drugs from being misused, thus helping to reduce a problem that has become all too common. The event, held twice annually since 2010, is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 28. Since it began, the program has helped to eliminate more than 4,508 tons of unwanted prescription drugs.
The latest event, which took place in October 2017, resulted in the collection of more than 912,300 pounds of expired, unused and unwanted drugs at more than 5,300 collection sites nationwide.
While the event helps ensure people will have untainted water, it also takes aim at the misuse of opioid drugs (painkillers) which has been declared a national public health emergency.
“More people start down the path of addiction through the misuse of opioid prescription drugs than any other substance, said Acting DEA Administrator Robert W. Patterson. “The abuse of these prescription drugs has fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic, which has led to the highest rate of overdose deaths this country has ever seen.
“This is a crisis that must be addressed from multiple angles. Educating the public and removing these medications from households across the United States prevents misuse where it often starts.”
The drugs can also enter municipal water systems when they are improperly disposed of, such as being flushed down toilets. Medications thrown into the trash also can seep into groundwater reserves.
A report by the Associated Press noted that antibiotics, painkillers and mood stabilizers were present in the drinking water of at least two dozen metropolitan water systems throughout the nation. This concern, combined with continuing prescription drug abuse, helped launch the DEA’s efforts to reduce these problems.
The national advocacy group American Rivers, based in Washington, D.C., notes that about 3.7 billion drug prescriptions are filled across the United States each year.
“Most municipal sewage treatment facilities do not remove the pharmaceutical compounds from your water, and major upgrades would be required to do so,” according to the organization. “The federal government hasn’t stepped in to require testing or set safety limits.”
The most cost-effective and easiest way to address the problem is to prevent these prescription drugs from entering our water. That is the focus of drug takeback programs such as the one scheduled for the end of this month.
Further research can also help people understand the potential impact of these substances in our water, and possibly, the best and most efficient ways to remove them at the water treatment stage. However, because of costs involved, simply keeping as many prescription drugs from the water system is at the forefront of addressing the issue.
You may think your efforts to reduce this problem are only a drop in the bucket, but combined with the efforts of others, your involvement definitely helps.
For more information about National Drug Takeback Day or to find the location closest to you, visit this website.