How to Dispose of Unwanted Medications

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Disposing of unwanted drugs and personal-care products

  •  Studies show the typical adult uses nine personal care products a day. These products, ranging from shampoo to sunscreen to over-the-counter medications, contain compounds that can find their way into rivers, streams and other water supply sources.
  • These substances, known collectively as pharmaceuticals and personal-care products (PPCPs), enter the environment through the wastewater stream and likely have been present in water supply sources for as long as such products have been in use.
  • Our ability to detect and measure them at very low concentrations has improved dramatically in recent years. Trace amounts of these compounds have been detected in rivers and streams throughout the United States and Europe, focusing new attention on their potential effects on human health and the environment.
  • The fact that a substance is detectable in drinking water does not mean it is harmful to humans. But water managers agree the best and most cost-effective way to ensure safe water at the tap is to prevent substances from entering water supply sources whenever possible.
  • Many medications are not entirely absorbed in our bodies, leaving the excess to enter the wastewater stream. In addition, some people improperly dispose of prescription drugs by flushing them down the toilet. Most wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove these substances.
  • Since controlling what goes down the drain is the easiest and most cost-effective way to protect water supply sources, Sacramento Suburban Water District (SSWD) encourages customers to dispose of pharmaceuticals and other products responsibly. That means keeping them out of sinks and toilets.
  • Take-back programs accept expired, unwanted or unused medicines and/or PPCPs. Contact your city or county household trash and recycling service to find out if there is a take back program in your neighborhood.

Be responsible and properly dispose of medications and other materials such as cleaning products, pesticides and automotive products that could potentially harm our drinking water and the environment.

Sources: American Water Works Association, Water Environment Federation, Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District.

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