In the news: Appeals court ruling opens door for manufacturer-funded medicine take-back programs

October 1st, 2014 by
A federal appeals court yesterday unanimously rejected a challenge by the pharmaceutical industry to a local ordinance that would require drug manufacturers to pay for the disposal of unwanted medicine in California’s Alameda County, the first law of its kind in the nation.
Approved by county supervisors in July 2012, the Alameda County Safe Medication Disposal Ordinance requires the makers of prescription drugs sold in the county to fund the collection, transportation, and disposal of unused or expired medications from residential sources. The requirements are similar to those underpinning successful medicine collection programs in Canada, France, and Australia.
Implementation of the law was stalled in Dec. 2012  by a lawsuit filed by industry trade associations. With support from drugmakers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the groups argued that the ordinance illegally shifts local costs to out-of-county producers and interferes with interstate commerce. But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco disagreed, saying the ordinance treats local and non-local manufacturers equally and imposes no substantial burden on interstate trade.  


Pharmaceutical manufacturers could still appeal to the Supreme Court. If the decision stands, it could serve as a precedent for a similar measure in Washington. In the wake of the Alameda County ordinance, the King County Board of Health passed a law requiring manufacturers to install medicine drop-off boxes and provide pre-paid, pre-addressed mailers upon request. 
The county was sued in Nov. 2013, with drug manufacturers comparing the ordinance to requiring news publications to conduct paper recycling or food producers to collect spoiled food. That case was put on hold until the Alameda County lawsuit could be resolved. 

Unwanted Meds program gets UpClose with Great Lakes plastic researcher

May 21st, 2014 by
It has been nearly one year since IISG set sail on Lake Michigan to sample for plastic pollution. Since then, Sam Mason, a chemist from State University of New York Fredonia, and her research team have been hard at work analyzing those water samples. The initial results are revealed in the latest edition of IISG’s interview series UpClose.  
In this issue, Mason talks about her ongoing work to quantify plastic pollution in the Great Lakes for the first time. In addition to the Lake Michigan results, Mason discusses plastic levels in the other four lakes, explains how plastics could impact aquatic wildlife, and suggests additional research needed to understand this emerging contaminant. 
This is the sixth edition of UpClose, which takes readers behind the scenes of the latest research on pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Each interview targets a different component of PPCP research—everything from what happens to pharmaceuticals when water is treated to what bacterial resistance could mean for other aquatic wildlife living in urban rivers. Readers also get an insider’s view of the complex, and sometimes tricky, process of conducting field studies, and the potential implications of research on industries and regulations.
Read previous issues of UpClose at For print copies, contact Pollution Prevention Program Specialist Laura Kammin.

New grant helps secure disposal boxes for Indiana communities

May 16th, 2014 by
The Indiana Household Hazardous Waste Task Force (IHHWTF) has awarded our Unwanted Meds program with funding to help support new pharmaceutical collection programs in the state. This is the second time in as many years that IISG has been recognized for its efforts to reduce pharmaceutical pollution in Indiana.
“IISG has been instrumental in providing financial assistance for take-back programs in Indiana,” said Scott Morgan, IHHWTF president. “Without this support, some of the programs may not have been established.”  
The $1,000 gift will go to purchasing secure collection boxes for communities interested in creating permanent prescription disposal drop-off locations. These types of easy disposal locations help to prevent unused medicine from contaminating aquatic environments, protect children and pets from accidental poisonings, and reduce prescription or over-the-counter drug abuse.
IHHWTF has provided financial support to programs working to reduce household waste for several years. The task force works with private and public groups across Indiana to educate the public on the proper handling and disposal of a range of environmentally-harmful chemicals—from medicines to batteries to motor oil.
Communities interested in starting their own medicine take-back program can contact Laura Kammin with questions and for additional support.

In the news: Pharmaceuticals showing up in Lake Michigan in high concentrations

September 6th, 2013 by

A recent study of Lake Michigan is indicating a high level of prescription drugs in the water, helping to emphasize the importance of proper disposal and the difficulty that water treatment facilities have removing these compounds.


“The study was performed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and examined water samples taken near a Milwaukee water treatment plant and from the city’s harbor, Environmental Health News reported.

Researchers found high levels of the anti-diabetes drug metformin, the anti-bacterial drug triclosan and the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole as well as high levels of caffeine in both water and sediment samples taken from the lake. In total, 38 different compounds were found in the samples in some concentration, including acetaminophen, testosterone, codeine and several antibiotics.”

Follow the link above for the complete article (including a link to the study and additional reading), and find out more about the importance of proper medicine disposal at our site.

2013 APEX Awards recognize two Sea Grant projects for publication excellence

August 28th, 2013 by
The APEX awards are given each year by Communication Concepts to recognize outstanding publication work in a variety of fields, and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant was selected this year for two separate awards.

IISG’s Laura Kammin was recognized for the creation of our proper medicine disposal website Working with Jane Scherer at the University of Illinois’ Extension program, Laura created the website and blog, providing valuable information about the dangers that improper medicine disposal can pose to the environment, steps that people can take to prevent medicines from getting into the wrong hands or contaminating the environment, and information about local take-back events and collection programs. 

Additionally, the IISG communications team of Irene Miles, Anjanette Riley, and Susan White were recognized for the publication of our 30 milestones, celebrating and highlighting a range of accomplishments in the first 30 years of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant program. You can browse the milestones with photographs in our Facebook album

Get an insider’s view of emerging contaminants with UpClose

August 5th, 2013 by
A new interview series takes readers behind the scenes of the latest research on pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCP). In UpClose, researchers working in the Great Lakes region talk about where these contaminants come from, what they mean for aquatic habitats, and how they can be effectively managed. With its focus on making science accessible and providing practical management solutions, each edition gives you a unique look at an emerging ecological threat. 
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant kicked off the series with a conversation with Timothy Strathmann, an environmental engineer at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Later editions featured the work of Maria Sepulveda, a toxicologist at Purdue University, and John Kelly, a microbiologist at Loyola University Chicago. Each interview targets a different component of PPCP research—everything from what happens to pharmaceuticals when water is treated to what bacterial resistance could mean for other aquatic wildlife living in urban rivers. Readers also get an insider’s view of the complex, and sometimes tricky, process of conducting field studies and the potential implications of research on industries and regulations. 
In upcoming editions, Ball State’s Melody Bernot will explain the surprising roles location and season play in pharmaceutical pollution, and Rebecca Klaper at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will talk about how research into the effects of these contaminants could lead to changes in how they are made, used, and treated. 
All UpClose editions are available in print and online. For print copies, contact Susan White. For more information about PPCP pollution and what you can do to reduce its impacts, visit

IISG offers assistance and info at successful DEA national take-back event

May 2nd, 2013 by
Illinois and Indiana residents took full advantage of the latest national prescription drug take back event this past Saturday, bringing unwanted pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medicines to locations set up for the one-day event. IISG staffers were again involved, promoting it through local radio and TV interviews and talking to visitors at Walgreens stores in Champaign and Urbana about the risks pharmaceuticals pose to aquatic environments. They also provided information about how to safely dispose of medicine between these national take-back opportunities.  
By the end of the 4-hour event, officials in Champaign and Urbana had collected 12 large boxes of unused medicine. These and other boxes collected throughout the country will be properly incinerated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). A final tally for how many pounds of pharmaceuticals were collected during the sixth National Take-Back Day will be announced by the DEA in the coming weeks. At last September’s event, Illinois residents brought in over 21,000 pounds of unwanted medicine for proper disposal, followed closely by Indiana’s 18,560 pounds. More than 2 million pounds of medicine have been disposed of nation-wide since the take-back days began in 2010.  
IISG volunteers were also onsite to tell residents of the two cities about a new year-round collection program launching May 24. Like last year, many who brought in pharmaceuticals – often by the bagful – said they had been holding onto their medications for months, waiting for the next collection day. Permanent collection boxes at the Champaign, Urbana, and University of Illinois police departments mean residents will no longer have to wait for single-day events like these to rid their homes of unwanted pharmaceuticals. 
To learn more about permanent programs operating in your area, or for information on how to dispose of medicine where collections are not available, visit  

*The provided this post.provided this post.

IISG staff share proper pharmaceutical disposal info at U of I health fair

April 23rd, 2013 by

IISG science writer Anjanette Riley was in attendance at the University of Illinois’ Student Health Fair April 17 and sent in this post about the event. 

At a booth in the heart of the Student Health Fair held yesterday at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, one important question could be heard throughout the day: If I shouldn’t flush them down the toilet, what am I supposed to do with my unused medications?
IISG’s Laura Kammin and Corrie Maxwell Layfield were there to communicate the importance of properly disposing of medicines. During the one-day event, Laura and Corrie talked with more than 130 people about the health and environmental risks posed by pharmaceutical pollution and how they could safely dispose of unwanted medicines. Visitors were also told about the nationwide medicine takeback event coming up on April 27 where they could drop off human and pet medications at locations throughout Illinois. 
Amid the buzz and bustle of the crowded fair, many students lingered at IISG’s booth with additional questions about research on the effects of pharmaceuticals in water and locations of permanent collection programs. Most were surprised to learn that pharmaceutical chemicals have been found in lakes and rivers and linked with changes in wildlife behavior and health. Those who had heard of the dangers of flushing unwanted medication were also surprised to hear that pills thrown in the trash could leach into ground water or find their way to wastewater treatment plants. 
But despite how much they knew about proper pharmaceutical disposal when they stopped at the booth, many left promising not to not to flush or throw away their medication in the future. 
“People get the “Don’t Flush” message,” said Kammin. “But it isn’t common knowledge yet that putting our unwanted meds in the trash just delays their trip to local water supplies. These students really got that message.”
Laura and Corrie also talked with university professors and fellow exhibitors interested in spreading the word about proper disposal. One professor wanted to incorporate pharmaceutical pollution into a class on environmental hazards. And exhibitors from health clinics and advocacy groups took IISG materials with information on collection programs and what to do when a program is not available to share with their patients and clients. 
Learn more about properly disposing of unwanted medicines at our site, and for more information about the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 27 including a list of locations, visit the DEA event website.

In the news: DEA proposal would create drug disposal regulations

January 29th, 2013 by

The Drug Enforcement Administration has published proposed regulations regarding the proper disposal of prescription pharmaceuticals and other controlled substances.

From the DEA’s release

This rule proposes requirements to govern the secure disposal of controlled substance medications by both DEA registrants and what the Controlled Substances Act refers to as “ultimate users” of these medications (patients and animals). The proposed regulations seek to expand the options available to collect these medications from ultimate users for the purpose of disposal, to include take-back events, mail-back programs, and collection box locations.”

The public comment period is open until February 19, and people can review the entire proposal online here

For more information about why proper disposal of these substances is so important, visit our Unwanted Meds website.

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