01 July 2009

No Drugs in the Water

For years, doctors, pharmacists and even the federal government have advised people to flush unused medicine down the toilet. Trace amounts began to show up in the nation's water supply. Several years ago, the U.S. Geological Survey announced that tests on 139 streams in 30 states showed trace amounts of Prozac, codeine, antibiotics and drugs for high blood pressure and diabetes.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found no immediate risk to people but suspects that drug contamination is causing ecological harm.

Legislation introduced this year in Congress would require the Justice Department to develop rules for "take-back" facilities. The government is urging people to seek "drug take-back programs" instead of flushing them. However, such programs are rare as it is illegal for people to give their controlled substances to others, even if it is just to get rid of them.

The federal government recommends mixing the drugs with "undesirable substances" like coffee grounds or kitty litter, placing them in a sealed container, and throwing them in the trash.