BARRY ASKED THE QUESTION: I have expired medications left over, and I was going to flush them down the toilet, but I remember hearing that is not the thing to do. So, what do I do? Why can’t I flush them? If I can’t recycle them, how should I safely dispose of them? What does state law say?
WE FOUND THE ANSWER: The Food and Drug Administration says most medications can be thrown in the household trash (after taking these precautions), and some drugs can be flushed. The most important thing to remember is to read the label. Most medications will denote if they’re safe to flush, and the FDA maintains a list of medications recommended for disposal by flushing.
But before you flush your unwanted or expired medications, we should note that this move doesn’t come without its share of controversy.
A 2008 investigation by the Associated Press found that 250 million pounds of pharmaceuticals are flushed each year by hospitals and long-term care facilities. U.S. EPA studies have shown that pharmaceuticals are present in waterbodies, and it recently added antibiotics, sex hormones and other pharmaceuticals to its list of known water contaminants, responding to evidence that trace amounts of medicines have entered the American drinking water supply.
If your meds are not deemed safe to flush, or you simply want an alternative, major retailers and government organizations have placed a high priority on proper disposal, so you may easily find other options in your area.
Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration partnered with community law enforcement offices to offer nationwide collection events for unused prescription medications. Just last month, CVS announced that all of its 7,200 locations will now offer customers an affordable way to safely dispose of unused, expired or unwanted medications. You can read more about that program here.
Written by Amanda Wills, Managing Editor