Pollution Danger: Pharmaceutical Disposal

Increasing Pollutants

An area of growing concern for environmental safety is the discovery of increased quantities of pollutants from pharmaceutical products in water sources. Improper disposal of these drugs and other personal care products endanger the environment just as do pesticides, automotive fluids and other chemicals. These can not be disposed of by flushing down drains or toilets. Follow the simple rule of no drugs down the drain.

Consumer cosmetic products and prescription drugs contain many powerful ingredients that have been found to migrate into water streams. Citizens must become partners in proper disposal of such items just as they must be responsible to channel their other hazardous materials and electronic waste for safe handling. Emerging pollutants include personal products that contain antibiotics, steroids, hormones, and miscellaneous chemicals such as caffeine, cholesterol, or even pesticides. These are entering your local waterways not only from commercial and industrial sources, but also from private residences.


In general, prescription medications should always be completely consumed as directed. When medications are left over for whatever reason, or expired, these should be packaged for disposal so that children or pets can not gain access and then thrown away in the trash. Take the unwanted medications out of their original container and place into a zip lock bag. Then pour hot water over it to dissolve followed by an absorbent non-toxic substance such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. Then seal and place into the trash.

Another solution is to gather old medications along with any other hazardous materials from your home, garage or garden and periodically take them to the nearby Household Hazardous Waste Center.