Tag Archives: Medical waste

Drug take-back programs could improve water quality

It is becoming clear that unused medications are getting into our waterways, but serious questions about how they’re getting there and how much of a problem they create for sealife are still largely unanswered.

For example, are the medications found in the water coming from people dumping them in the toilet, passing them through their bodies or doing something else entirely? What specific chemicals can be found in certain waterways and in what concentrations? How much of these chemicals does it take to affect marine life? What are all the possible effects, and are they really a threat to individual animals or entire populations?

I tried to cover some of these issues in a story published in yesterday’s Kitsap Sun. An editorial appeared in the Sun today.

It’s easy to come up with questions, and it is clear to me that more research needs to be done. But another thing is equally clear, as pointed out by advocates of take-back programs and the Sun’s editorial: Making it easy for people to safely dispose of unused medications would be a step toward removing biologically active chemicals from our waterways.

Whether getting pharmaceutical companies involved in disposal is the right step or the only step is open to debate, as we’ll see when this issue comes back to the Legislature next year. But if someone opposes this approach, I hope they’re ready to recognize the problem and offer serious ideas for addressing the problem.

For additional information, check out:

House Bill 1165, allowing for the safe collection and disposal of drugs through a producer-funded take-back program

Washington state’s Unwanted Medicine Return Web site with a page with links to more information

In Kitsap County, unused medications can be taken to Group Health clinics, according to the county’s Moderate Risk Waste Program.

Margaret Shield of King County’s Local Hazardous Waste Management Program has compiled two documents filled with facts about:
Human Health Concerns (PDF 28 kb)
Environmental Concerns (PDF 108 kb)