Protect our environment from improperly disposed meds on this World Environment Day

Today is World Environment Day. This isn’t a take-off-from-work holiday and probably a lot of folks may not even be aware of it at all. But as more awareness grows about climate change, the growing worldwide drought and ensuing water scarcity, it’s important to note that what we do has an impact on our surroundings – on our environment and particularly on the availability and drinkability of clean water.

As far back as 2002, reports discovered that there was drug residue in drinking water supply. Pharmaceuticals such as anti-seizure medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics and a common disinfectant have been discovered in major waterways supplying metropolitan areas such as New York and Washington D.C. and in areas of California, for example.

What does this have to do with our environment, you say? Plenty.

Pharmaceuticals in river and lake water are being blamed for “feminized” male fish and other changes observed in earthworms and zooplankton. A Baylor University researcher found Prozac in liver and brain tissue of catfish and black crappie from a creek near Dallas, Texas, which connects to a drinking water supply. And studies are showing that the release of anti-anxiety drugs can affect entire ecosystems in a waterway, possibly contributing to an increase or decrease in algae growth.

Medication Disposal Tips graphicToo many people still choose to flush unused or out of date medications, even though there are now annual (sometimes twice yearly) National Take-Back Days. The problem with putting drugs into our water system is that there’s tremendous difficulty removing them before we drink it. Even though progress has been made by researchers in this, the large majority of wastewater treatment plants aren’t equipped to remove drugs from their water.That means most of these chemicals pass through the wastewater treatment facility (or are processed through septic systems) and accumulate in rivers, lakes, ground water, and aquatic organisms.

According to the USGS, over 80% of waterways tested in the United States show traces of common medications such as acetaminophen, hormones, blood pressure medicine, codeine, and antibiotics Do you really want to be drinking someone else’s antidepressants or cholesterol meds? Imagine what that can do to you and to your body, whether you’re in great health or not so much?

There’s a cause and effect to everything in life. What we do and how we do it matters. It may take a little bit more to dispose of meds properly, but the result is that doing so doesn’t harm wildlife, marine life or your family. So on this World Environment Day, please think before you act when it comes to unused medications. Mother Nature will thank you for it.

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