Sunday, April 26, 2009

Consider the downstream effects

Getting rid of unwanted, unused or expired items is not as simple as throwing it in the trash can. While many people do this, there are consequences to this action that affect the quality of our water, our air and our soil. Computer monitors and televisions contain heavy metals which are toxic when consumed. All those plastics do not break down especially in a landfill, and burning garbage just adds more greenhouse gases and unpleasant chemicals to the air.

However, one of the most worrisome trends is all the medications that can be measured in our waters. Hormones, steroids, antibiotics and nonprescription medications can all be detected in our waterways. Unfortunately, the way we have been disposing of old or outdated medication is by flushing it down the toilet. Water treatment facilities are not equipped to handle the drugs and the medication is passed without alteration into the water system. While there is debate about how much those dilute amounts of drugs may affect us, there are more than just humans drinking the water. In fact, there are many organisms that live their entire lives in water and they are being affected, altering their physiology, including their reproductive capability.

My city recently hosted a medication disposal and sharps collection program. All citizens were encouraged to bring unused, old and unwanted medications for proper disposal. I had two pet medications, old topical prescription products and several other expired over-the-counter drugs including Aleve and sleeping pills that I brought to the disposal site. This is one way I ensure old medications are not merely thrown away or flushed down the toilet.

I encourage you to find such a program in your area. If there is not one, talk to your local medical facility about starting one. Taking the time to dispose of medications correctly helps not only yourself and your neighbors but the entire ecology. The fish and frogs thank you.

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