The conventional wisdom, up until recently, was that unused or unfinished prescription medications could safely be disposed of by flushing down any standard-issue toilet. However extensive and invasive studies of wildlife and surface water have found low levels of these medications out in the wild.
Apparently wastewater treatment – while doing a bang-up job of creating potable water for the masses it isn’t designed to extricate every bit of medication from wastewater. The results aren’t fully understood, but measurable impacts have occurred in some species of fish and other wildlife. Male fish and crabs are being found carrying eggs or sporting female anatomical features. The U.S. Geological Survey found in 1999 and 2000 found low levels of drugs such as contraceptives, antibiotics, hormones and steroids in 80% of the rivers and streams tested, according to the Coast keeper.
Not every bit of prescription medication can be prevented from entering the water supply due, in large part, to normal, natural elimination procedures. There are things to be done though, especially with unused portions of medications. A partnership between the police departments of both Berlin and Ocean City, the Worcester County Health Department and Sheriff’s office and the Assateague Coastkeeper have organized what they are calling Operation Medicine drop tomorrow Oct. 29 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
So instead of giving the old meds a one-way ride on the old porcelain bus, drop off the unused portions at the Berlin Police Department, the Worcester County Health Department, the Pocomoke Health Center, the Food Lions in Ocean Pines and West Ocean City, plus the Public Safety Building in Ocean City.
From there the medicines will be collected and eventually turned over to the DEA for the preferred method of disposal – incineration. It has been shown that even expired medications have had adverse effects on ecosystems.
Also, the pervasive accumulations of drugs like antibiotics within an ecosystem can eventually breed resistant varieties, which will give people more trouble when trying to cure themselves of an infection.
With so much water surrounding us and so much depending on it dropping the medicines off accomplishes a few goals: First, it gets them out of your cabinets freeing you from an avalanche of orange bottles when reaching for some Tums. Second, it helps preserve the local ecosystem and waterways upon which so much in this area depends. Third, you’re fairly likely, if you’re going to leave the house in Worcester County at all on Saturday, to come within walking distance of one of these drop-off locations.
So it makes sense on pretty much all fronts. The medicines need to be handled correctly, there are several convenient locations to dispose of the medications and we don’t end up with adversely-affected ecosystems that largely benefit and sustain our own lives in one way or another.