Keeping drugs out of the water
August 10, 2009

The National Associates of Counties has passed a resolution endorsing policies to require pharmaceutical companies to take back unused and unwanted medicines. The introduction of pharmaceuticals and other "emerging contaminants" into drinking water supplies has become a source of considerable new attention in recent years. Some pharmaceuticals will be found in water supplies no matter what happens to the unwanted drugs, since many chemicals are only partially processed or used by the body and end up flowing through to the wastewater stream as a result. But when people use their toilets as a disposal mechanism for unwanted drugs, they compound the problem significantly. Opinions on proper disposal mechanisms can vary, since hazardous-waste disposal sites are not always readily available or accessible, and recommendations that drugs be disposed of alongside ordinary trash may ignore the fact that landfill leachate (the liquids that come from stormwater runoff around landfills and the liquids inside the garbage itself) can itself simply end up right back at municipal wastewater plants.

August 2009
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last revised August 2009