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How to Dispose of Unused Drugs!

The matter of properly disposing of surplus and expired medications is an emerging issue in the environmental arena. Historically, surplus and expired medications were commonly “flushed down the toilet” and disposed of through the sanitary sewer systems. However with advanced technology and improved analytical procedures research has found medications and their byproducts in our water supplies, suggesting that this disposal method is not completely effective in preventing contamination. Though wastewater treatment systems reduce the concentrations of the medications introduced through the sewer system, they are not designed to totally eliminate drugs and their by products.

Because of the adverse effects (both known and potential) of pharmaceutical waste, the Woodmoor Water & Sanitation District prefers that expired or surplus medications NOT be “flushed down the toilet” and disposed of through sanitary sewers.

Federal Guidelines for the proper disposal of prescription drugs include:

  • Check with your local pharmacy for availability of a community pharmaceutical take-back program.

  • Ask your doctor's office if they will take back any remaining pharmaceutical items for return to their vendor.

  • Mix prescription drugs with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and put them in nondescript containers, such as empty cans or seal-able bags; then throw them in the trash.

  • Flush prescription drugs down the toilet only if the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs doing so.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) web site describes the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the environment.  The site incorporates commonly asked questions about pharmaceuticals in the environment, completed and on-going scientific work, and research bibliographies from a web site originally managed by EPA's Office of Research and Development.

Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment Guidelines for disposal of most medications, with the exception of cancer treating drugs.

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