Detectable amounts of certain pharmaceuticals in the Hudson River remind us why proper medication disposal is important for the environment and community health.

Earlier this month, scientists have begun taking samples from the Hudson River in New York as part of a larger study to test just how much medication is present in our waterways. According to local news sources, water samples taken in 2015 found 83 of 117 targeted chemicals, ranging from antidepressants to blood pressure medication.  Numbers for the most recent sweep have yet to be released, but it is quite an eye opener in terms of what we do with our medications and just how much ends up in our rivers, lakes, and streams. 

Of course, it’s not just discarded medication we have to worry about.  Over-the-counter and prescription drugs ingested by humans are typically not completely absorbed or degraded by our bodies before elimination.  These drugs end up in our waste that is flushed down the drain, passed through the sewer system, only partially destroyed in the sewage treatment process, and therefore are still present in wastewater treatment plant effluent.  Depending on the location, this effluent stream is discharged to rivers or the ocean.

The recent study aims to figure out now just how much medication is present in the Hudson River, but also its point of origin.  Measuring the pharmaceuticals will give scientists clues as to whether the pollution came from animals, untreated human sewage, or a sewage treatment plant.

Approximately 100,000 upstate New Yorkers get their drinking water from the Hudson River, so understanding pharmaceutical pollution from this location is not only a health concern from potable drinking water, but for those who also consume fish from these locations.

Pharmaceutical waste management is a long and complicated topic that falls within the hub of hazardous waste management.  Going back as far as early 2000, a U.S. Geological Survey found perceptible amounts of one or more medications in 80 percent of  water samples drawn from a network of 139 streams in 30 states.

There’s really not much question that improper pharmaceutical waste disposal continues, but there are measures that everyone can take collectively to mitigate the environmental impact.

While the FDA has and still recommends flushing certain medications, the best course of action is to research a take-back program. Law enforcement, public health, and environmental professionals feel that these programs are the safest and most responsible way to dispose of unwanted and expired medicines to protect your family and to protect our waters.

Earth Day may be behind us, but community action is an ongoing process that requires diligence and education. Rather than gamble with the environment and the health of our communities, it is best to speak with a medical waste removal agent, like Red Bags about disposing unused and unwanted medications. There are several things we can do as individuals to limit pharmaceutical pollution, and Red Bags can help you and your communities navigate this often complex and confusing subject.

How do you manage pharmaceutical waste at home or at your medical practice?

 

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