In the United States, pharmacists fill over three billion prescriptions a year. In addition to this, undocumented amounts of over-the-counter medications are purchased by consumers. Local and national studies have found prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals in rivers, groundwater and municipal drinking water supplies. Unfortunately, septic systems, wastewater treatment plants and drinking water treatment facilities are not yet designed to treat these contaminants. It is critically important to lake water quality and human health that we prevent the transport of these contaminants into our water bodies.
Although the federal government does not have a national policy on pharmaceutical disposal, here are some recommendations: Do not flush medicines down the sink or toilet unless disposal instructions indicate that this is the right mechanism. Contact a local waste management office for local options and guidelines. Many counties and cities in Montana have pharmaceutical collection locations where you can safely dispose of unwanted or expired pharmaceuticals.
If you have pharmaceuticals that cannot be otherwise disposed of, the most current advice is to mix the contents with kitty litter or coffee grounds, seal them in a container and dispose of them with your trash.
A 2008 Montana Water Center Newsletter reported that a joint study between the Montana Bureau of Mines & Geology and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality surveyed ground water beneath the Helena Valley on two occasions in 2005.
They tested 35 domestic water supplies, and found 22 compounds classified as “pharmaceuticals or personal-care products.” These included antibiotics, pain-killers, anti-inflammatory and seizure-control drugs, anti-depressants, estrogens and androgens, caffeine, plasticizers, insect repellent and an herbicide.
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