You head to the doctors office and she gives you a prescription. You take it for a while. Then the leftover pills get pushed to the back of your medicine cabinet where they stay month after month.
After several prescriptions, your medicine cabinet begins to look like the local drug store. What should you do?
If you take your grandmothers advice, you may be tempted to take off all the caps, dump the pills into the toilet and flush the problem away. But is that the right solution? Does that impact the environment? And what does that do to overall water quality?
An Associated Press investigation back in 2008 discovered that millions of Americans may be drinking contaminated water every day. Most communities that have looked into water quality have found low levels of prescription drugs in their water supply – including cattle antibiotics, estrogen, hormones, antidepressants and more – and all of it ultimately can have an affect on you.
Common sense tells us that if high levels of prescription medication ends up in our water supply, no matter how much filtering and cleaning it goes through, trace amounts will remain.
Which means we consume it every day in the water we drink, and the foods we consume with water somewhere in the process.
So dumping your pills into the toilet and flushing isn’t the solution. But is that the only way our medicines are getting into the water supply?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Disposal of drugs is only part of the problem.
What goes in must come out. And when a person takes prescription drug after drug, a lot of the medicine stays within the human body. The part that doesn’t is eliminated and once again finds its way down into the sewer system. Add in industrial discharges, manure used as fertilizer and agricultural runoff, and you begin looking at our water supply in an entirely different way.
What should we do? Start by doing your part and not disposing of unused prescription drugs in the toilet. Many pharmacies will take back unused prescriptions. Or check with your doctor – she should be able to provide names of safe disposal sites.