What happens to prescription or over-the-counter medicines that are brought home, but for one reason or another, never get used? Medicines that are flushed or tossed in the trash can end up in lakes, rivers, and even in our drinking water, posing a risk to people, animals, and the environment.
       
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and University of Illinois Extension have developed a new website, www.unwantedmeds.org,to encourage people to properly dispose of their expired or unneeded medicines.
“This site helps you find a local medicine collection program, provides tips on how to dispose of medicine if there isn’t a collection program nearby, guides communities on how to start a new collection program, and explains why flushing medications down the sink or toilet can be bad for people and the environment,” said Laura Kammin, IISG pollution prevention specialist.
Medicine disposal has come to be an emerging concern in recent years because numerous studies have shown significant traces of pharmaceuticals in U.S. waterways and in drinking water. The long term effects are not known, but scientists have documented impacts to aquatic wildlife.
“The advice used to be to flush unwanted medicines, but it’s clear that flushing medicines or throwing them in the trash contributes to the problem,” said Laura Kammin, IISG pollution prevention specialist.
Right now the best solution is to find a medicine collection program in your area. IISG works with communities to develop local medicine collection programs, some of which are ongoing and some are one-day events. Through workshops and the IISG toolkit, the program provides information and support so that these efforts are safe and successful.
In addition to information on collection programs, www.unwantedmeds.orgprovides resources for teachers and other educators who want to engage students on this topic, including curricula and examples of service-learning projects.
Contact IISG Pollution Prevention Specialist Laura Kammin for more information on the program, and visit the new website to help protect people, pets, and the environment from expired and unwanted medications.