Proper Disposal of Medications

Don't flush those old pharmaceutical products


You've probably heard the news about pharmaceuticals that get into the sewer system, contributing toxic chemicals to the environment. Ironhouse Sanitary District's new Water Recycling Facility is one of the most effective means of removing biodegradable wastes, but it was not designed to flush out pharmaceutical chemical pollution.

Over the counter and prescription medicines can contain hazardous substances that may threaten human health and the environment if disposed of improperly.

The age-old method of disposing medications down the drain or toilet will also cause these hazardous materials to end up back in the environment or in the river.

A recent study by the United States Geological Survey found that 80 percent of our streams are contaminated with prescription drugs, including steroids and hormones. A great deal of that percentage comes from people taking medications and then naturally passing them through their bodies.

Traces of popular heart medications, anti-depressants, antibiotics, cholesterol-lowering drugs, chemotherapy drugs, veterinary drugs, and hormones are turning up in groundwater around the world. Further, discarded pharmaceuticals often end up at dumps and landfills, posing a threat to underlying groundwater.

There is not much that can be done to totally eliminate drugs from entering our environment; however, ratepayers can help to lessen the problems of pharmaceuticals in our waterways and groundwater by disposing of other drugs properly.

Although modern wastewater treatment plants are efficient at removing many of those contaminants, flushing or throwing medicines down the drain is not proper disposal. The EPA warns that sewage treatment systems are not specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals, and those drugs can pass intact into waterways, rivers and other aquifers when people dispose of unused medicines by flushing them down the toilet.

Even throwing such medication in the garbage can is not an answer for many of these contaminants. That is why the Ironhouse Sanitary District recommends that people dispose of medications by either bringing them to the Delta Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility in Pittsburg or bringing them back to the pharmacy where they were purchased and asking if the pharmacy has a disposal site for old medications.

Delta Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility is located 2550 Pittsburg-Antioch Highway in Pittsburg. The facility is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

While this facility is located in Pittsburg, other East County communities including Oakley and Bethel Island are welcome to bring their pharmaceuticals to the site for disposal. The facility requires proof of residency, such as a utility bill or driver's license, when dropping off any items.

Personal care products comprise more than 80,000 chemical substances, and include such things as antibacterial soap, cosmetics, lotion, and hair and skin care products.

It is believed that some of the chemical ingredients of many personal care products can harm the environment and wildlife. As with pharmaceuticals, many of these chemicals can pass through the treatment process and enter the San Joaquin River after being flushed down toilets or rinsed down sinks.

What can you do? Start by purchasing products made with natural ingredients. More important, when disposing of personal care products, take care to dispose of these items like other hazardous chemicals. Bring them to the Delta Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility. Do not pour or flush these products down the drain or toilet.

Items accepted at the Pittsburg collection facility include personal care items such as:
• Hair care products
• Lotions
• Soaps• Cosmetics
• Nail polish remover
• Perfumes
• Colognes
• Insect Repellent