With American spending over $4 billion on prescription medicines in 2019, proper disposal of these drugs (as well as over-the-counter pharmaceutical products) is critical to protecting both human health and our water supply.
In Marion County, Indiana, residents can take unused or unwanted medications to permanent drop off sites at select pharmacies and police departments. The state’s Take-Back Finder through BitterPill.in.gov can help you find a medication drop off location nearest you. These is no cost to take medications, but be sure to check if the location accepts the medications you plan to take (controlled substances, syringes, liquid medications, etc).
Additionally, businesses can organize special take back events in their communities to keep these chemicals from accidental ingestion and out of the water supply. The Indianapolis Department of Public Works may also hold medication drop-off services in conjunction with household hazardous waste recycling events.
How do medicines impact drinking water?
Flushing your unused medication or pouring it down the drains adds a myriad of chemical substances to municipal wastewater. Many compounds do not yet have a water-quality standards adding complexity to the drinking water treatment process.
Septic system owners need to be especially careful about not flushing medications down the toilet or drain as some may disrupt the processes in a septic system, posing a risk of groundwater contamination from these compounds and fecal matter.
Be safe with your unused medications – before and during disposal! If you are not able to dispose of them at a medication drop-off, check out the BitterPill.in.gov for tips on safe household disposal.