Water ResourcesPollution Prevention

Disposing of Unwanted Medications

It used to be common practice to dispose of unused, unwanted, or expired medications by flushing them down the toilet or down the sink drain. In fact, your doctor or pharmacist may even have directed you to do so in the past. However, it is now known that the medications are BAD for the environment!

Unused, Unwanted & Expired Medications are Harmful to the Environment

Medications that are harmful to the environment include: prescription drugs (e.g., birth control pills, hormone replacement drugs, etc.), antidepressants, and antibiotics; over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers, cold/flu medicines, and antiseptics; and veterinary medicines. The chemicals and hormones in many over-the-counter and prescription medications can harm the water quality in the creeks, arroyos and water bodies including the San Francisco Bay. The pharmaceuticals have the potential to adversely affect the reproductive system of the fish and aquatic organisms living in waterways. The chemicals also persist in the environment and enter the food chain.

Wastewater Can Transport Medicines Into the Environment

Wastewater treatment plants are designed to remove pollutants such as solids and biodegradable materials; they are not designed to remove man-made pollutants such as medications. Since the treated wastewater from the Livermore Water Reclamation Plant is ultimately discharged into the San Francisco Bay, medications present in the wastewater will find their way into the Bay.

Medications enter the sewer system in a couple of ways:

  1. by disposal of medications down the toilet and drain, and
  2. by excretion from the human body in urine and feces.

One way to reduce the level of medications in the water bodies is to reduce the amount of medications entering the sewers and wastewater treatment plant.

Properly Disposing of Medication

Preventing the introduction of medications into waterways and the wastewater stream by proper disposal is critical. Click the following to learn more about other Options for Proper Drug Disposal.