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Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Up until fairly recently, I had no idea I was contributing to serious contamination of our waters. I’ll bet many of you have, too. Health editor Janice Kerr explains how we’ve all been guilty and what we can do to prevent further contamination. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia. The contamination occurs whenever we dispose of leftover or outdated medications by pouring them down the sink or flushing them down the toilet. Yet for generations this has been the standard procedure for eliminating unwanted meds. Little did we know that by doing so, we were poisoning our lakes, rivers, and drinking water.

One study suggests that somewhere around 40% of all prescriptions written annually go unused. That’s somewhere around 200 million pounds of pills and liquids that could be entering our waterways, and that doesn’t include all the over-the-counter meds that get poured or flushed down American drains each year. Tossing them out in the trash is no better solution. They can contaminate the soil and pose hazards to wildlife.

So how do you dispose of unwanted medications? You certainly don’t want to keep them in your home once you no longer have need of them or they’ve passed their expiration date. They could pose a poison risk to children. Do you give them away? No, it’s never a good idea to pass unused, unexpired meds to friends and family. Self-medication, especially with prescriptions, can lead to all sorts of complications. It’s also illegal to dispense pharmaceuticals without a license.

To combat this problem, the National Community Pharmacists Association has recently launched the
Dispose My Meds campaign. So far over 800 community pharmacies in 40 states have signed on to the campaign. All you have to do is bring your unwanted meds to a participating pharmacy, and they’ll be sent to a medical-waste facility. They also offer postage-paid envelopes for mailing the drugs. For details and to find a participating pharmacy near you, go to DisposeMyMeds.org.

Thanks so much, Janice! This is a great solution. Kudos to the participating pharmacies. 

Our Book Club Friday guest author is giving away a book this week. Post a comment to be included in the drawing. -- AP

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