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GLIN==> Don?t Flush: Drive Unwanted Medicines from Your Home

Title: Don?t Flush: Drive Unwanted Medicines from Your Home

Alliance for the Great Lakes

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Contact: Lyman Welch

Don’t Flush! Drive Unwanted Medicines from Your Home

This April 26 the Alliance will help Chicago-area residents dispose of unused medicines and keep them out of the Great Lakes, where pharmaceuticals are known to harm wildlife and may also be harming people who tap the Lakes for drinking water.

Those living elsewhere around the Great Lakes are encouraged to participate in similar collection events scheduled around the region during Earth Week, April 19–27 -- all part of the U.S. EPA’s “Great Lakes 2008 Earth Day Challenge.”

“Flushing unwanted medicines down toilets leads to potential contamination of the Great Lakes and drinking water supplies,” said Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program manager for the Alliance. “Disposing of unused and expired medicines through collection programs is a responsible step everyone can take now to prevent water pollution at the source.”

EPA’s regional challenge is to collect 1 million pills of unwanted medicines and 1 million pounds of unwanted electronics, or e-waste, for responsible disposal. Across the Great Lakes region, communities are stepping up, signing on to the challenge and adding their collection and take-back events to the efforts of thousands.

The Alliance is co-hosting a prescription drug collection from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 26 at the Chicago Household Hazardous Waste facility on Goose Island, 1150 N. North Branch St.  Jointly sponsored with the Illinois EPA, U.S. EPA and City of Chicago, the public is invited to bring unused or expired prescription and non-prescription drugs, inhalers and mercury thermometers for free and proper disposal.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, the U.S. Geological Survey and the EPA are increasingly troubled by studies showing organisms exhibiting altered gender ratios, sluggish behavior, and even increased reproduction rates as a result of exposure to pharmaceuticals and other pollutants that disrupt the body’s hormonal system. Scientists say such findings may indicate that people, especially children and other sensitive populations, could also be affected.

The pathway is clear. Many, unaware of the consequences, continue to follow old directives to flush unwanted medicines down the toilet, leading to the potential contamination of surface and ground waters. Furthermore, whenever someone ingests a pill, some of the drug is absorbed by the body but the rest passes through and is flushed down the toilet.

The wastewater is treated before it is discharged to reservoirs, rivers or lakes, and again at drinking water treatment plants before it is piped to consumers. But conventional sewage treatment methods were not designed to remove this type of contamination.

For now, regulators say the most practical and rapid way to protect public health from the threat of pharmaceutical pollution is to eliminate it at the source wherever possible.

“This collection is beneficial not only to residents who want get rid of the unused antibiotics or other drugs lining their medicine cabinets -- but also to the environment,” said Doug Scott, director of the Illinois EPA.

The collection site is unable to accept controlled substances because of strict federal laws, said the Alliance’s Welch, adding “Federal controlled substance laws must be revised to make it easier for consumers to return unused or expired drugs for proper disposal.”

For more information about collections and locations, see EPA’s “Great Lakes 2008 Earth Day Challenge” at: http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/earthday2008

Susan Campbell
Communications Manager
Alliance for the Great Lakes

Visit http://www.greatlakes.org