pharmaceuticals

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EDITOR’S NOTE: EACH TUESDAY MY GREEN SIDE BRINGS SIMPLE TIPS FOR GREEN LIVING TO THE CHRISTOPHER GABRIEL PROGRAMWE ALSO HIGHLIGHT A FAVORITE GREEN SITE EACH WEEK. YOU CAN STREAM THE SEGMENT AT APPROXIMATELY 1220PM (CENTRAL) EVERY TUESDAY AT WDAY.COM OR, IF YOU’RE IN NORTH DAKOTA OR WESTERN MINNESOTA, LISTEN ON YOUR RADIO AT AM970 WDAY.

GREEN TIP: Do not flush your leftover/expired medications down the sink or toilet.    

The old recommendation that leftover and expired medications be flushed down the toilet is one of the worst things we could be doing. Researchers have found traces of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in our rivers and streams around the country. Not good for our wildlife. Also, our wastewater treatment plants were not designed to remove medicines from the wastewater so it’s important not to let them go into the sewer systems.

Four of every five patients leave the doctor’s office with a prescription according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS 2002), so the disposal of pharmaceuticals is an important issue.

The US Geological Survey studied water from 139 streams in 30 states and found that 80% contained traces of pharmaceuticals. The affect that those traces may have on the environment, plants, marine life and human health is unknown.

Tips to lessen your environmental impact:

  • DO make sure you take all of your prescription when a medication is prescribed to you.
  • DON’T flush your unused pharmaceuticals down the sink or toilet.
  • DON’T throw your unused pharmaceuticals in the garbage.
  • DO establish good eating/nutrition and exercise habits to prevent disease.
  • DO contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service and ask if a drug take‐back program is available in your community. If not, inquire into your city’s household hazardous waste collection sites.

A study of this issue was done for Environmental Health Perspectives and is posted on the Environmental Protection Agency’s site.  Its author, Christian G. Daughton, begins by stating:

Since the 1980s, the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) as trace environmental pollutants, originating primarily from consumer use and actions rather than manufacturer effluents, continues to become more firmly established. The growing, worldwide importance of freshwater resources underscores the need for ensuring that any aggregate or cumulative impacts on (or from) water supplies are minimized.

Some highlights of the study:

The age-old wisdom of flushing medication down the toilet (still recommended by many professionals)… is probably the least desirable of all the alternatives…

The key and critical disease-prevention role played by nutrition should continue to be explored and emphasized at all levels.

The connections between health maintenance/improvement via proper nutrition and the reduced need for medication are well documented.

Probiotics (beneficial, endogenous microflora) have long been used and studied for the protection of the gut [largely by blocking pathogen adhesion (e.g., Kaur et al. 2002)]. More recent work has expanded this important domain of clinical microbial ecology to other medical uses such as prophylaxis for postsurgical infection [in lieu of prophylactic antibiotics (e.g., Harder 2002; Reid et al. 2001)]. 

Local Disposal Locations

Residents of Fargo, ND can dispose of medications including liquids, pills and inhalers at the front desk of the Fargo Police Department. Items can be dropped off between the hours of 8 am to 6pm. Check with your local law enforcement agency to see if they provide this service, most do.

TakeAway is a national program to help you find disposal locations for your unused prescription medications. TakeAway pharmacies are located in all of North Dakota’s counties and at over 225 pharmacy sites around the country. Find a site near you.

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

Sustainable Table – Serving up Healthy Food Choices
Sustainable Table
celebrates local sustainable food, educates consumers on food-related issues and works to build community through food. They have recipes and tips, a list of issues faces sustainable food, an informative blog, a searchable database (Eat Well Guide) of sustainable food in your area and much more.

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