Don't Flush Old Medications Down the Toilet! It Goes to the Ocean!


Did You Know?

[December, 2006] Most of us have been told in the past, that the safest way to dispose of old medications, especially controlled substances, was to flush it down the toilet. However, most sanitation plants have no way to remove drugs from water before dumping it into streams or the ocean. So, marine life including mammals and fish get exposed to all kinds of drugs including narcotics, hormones, and antibiotics. Not only does this disrupt marine life, it also puts antibiotics in the environment, which can create new strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria!

There has been a campaign over the last few years to get the word out, but many people still haven't gotten the message (including me until just before I wrote this article). Local governments, environmental groups and sanitation districts are trying to formulate a safe, standard way to dispose of unused drugs. Right now, there is no easy answer, so I recommend you do your research to find the best disposal method available in your community.

Ask your pharmacy if they take back unused medications. It has also been suggested to wrap them up and throw them into the trash, but you have to think about where they will end up then. You still have to reduce potential exposure to people and animals around your trash container, and protect controlled substances from being found by those who would abuse them. Plus, what about drugs in our landfills and groud water? There are complex laws regarding disposal of controlled substances as well, so please put a little thought into how you will dispose of your old drugs. One step is to be careful not to purchase more drugs than you will need, so you won't have any unused drugs to worry about.

Here is some further reading for you. Any links below are outside of Orcaoutreach, and will open in a new browser window. Please report any broken links to the Webmaster.

Bottom line: Don't drug our fish, seals, and dolphins!.