Prescription Drugs in Water
The following article appears in the Durango Herald (9-1-10) as part of our monthly Creating Community column. It looks at the issue of Personal Care and Pharmaceutical Products (PPCP) in our waterways, proper disposal of prescription drugs, and options for disposal locally. There are links to studies and resources at the bottom.
Some of you may remember when PCP, an illegal drug, was a major issue in the 1970s. We now have a PCPP legal drug problem. PCPP stands for Personal Care and Pharmaceutical Products. "Look in your bathroom and under your sink and you'll find bottles with ingredients you can't pronounce," said Mike Meschke, Environmental Health Director for San Juan Basin Health Department. "Many of these compounds are not biodegradable and persist in our rivers and streams because they pass through treatment plants. The issue has emerged over the last several decades. Waterways didn't have PPCP just 30 years ago," Meschke says. Published reports indicate that PPCP could likely be found in every waterway in the nation.
Impact on the aquatic life has been documented at least as far back as the 2002 USGS study. "We know the bottom of the food chain is dramatically impacted," Meschke says. "While we don't know the long term human impacts because of the lack of research data, we do know that many of the chemicals found in waterways are endocrine disruptors." These chemicals may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. "We're rolling the dice," Meschke warns, "we're playing with an environmental cocktail in our water."
There have been congressional hearings on PPCP in waterways and it's discussed by regulators, scientists and wastewater engineers. However, individuals can take some personal responsibility right now. While the issue relates to a wide array of chemicals and products, this article will focus on action people can take to lessen the amount of prescription medication getting into the waterways. Almost 4 billion
Locally, individuals are fortunate to have a place to bring expired and unused pharmaceuticals. Mill Street Drug in Bayfield participates in a National Community Pharmacist Association program. Since last spring, they've collected boxes of medications which are shipped to a company that incinerates them. "Drugs showing up in our water supplies is a big concern for everyone," said owner Mary O'Donnell. She’s happy to provide this valuable service to the community.
Another opportunity for community members to dispose of drugs highlights a further public health concern. "Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem," said Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske. Local law enforcement agencies are joining in a national Take-Back Day on September 25th to address the rise in addiction caused by pharmaceutical drug misuse and abuse. For more information on local locations and times for this event, visit: www.dea.gov.
Residents can also bring pharmaceuticals to the annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection put on by La Plata County and the City of Durango. It takes place Saturday, October 2nd at the Fairgrounds. See La Plata County Sustainability website or call 382-6200 for more information.
RESOURCES - Disposal Options and Sampling of Articles, Studies:
Local Disposal Options:
Mill Street Drug, 15 E. Mill in Bayfield will accept unused or expired prescription drugs at their store. Please note: they cannot accept controlled substances; however, the Take-Back Day on Sept. 25 will (see below for more information). See the National Community Pharmacy Association's DisposeMyMeds website for more information on this program. It also has a community pharmacy locator for friends and family in other communities to be able to find a disposal location.
National Take-Back Day on Saturday, September 25th: there will be two to three sites community members in La Plata County can bring their unused or expired pharmaceuticals (including controlled substances). This first annual event is sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration with local law enforcement agencies - the Durango Police Department and La Plata County Sheriff's office. Collection Site Locator.
Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day - annual event that takes place Saturday, October 2 this year from 8:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. The requested donation amount per vehicle is $15.
If you cannot bring it to one of the above locations - follow the FDA recommendations for disposal.
Articles and Studies: