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Impact of Flushed Medications and Toiletries

Picture advising do not flush medications
Please, no meds down the toilet

Birth control, antidepressants, anticoagulants, ibuprofen, lotions, sunscreens, antibacterials…. all these and more are showing up in our water supply.

The U.S. Geological Survey sampled 139 rivers and streams and found traces of hundreds of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Half the samples contained antibiotics, raising concern about the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. Other studies have found that estrogen is causing sexual abnormalities in fish, and steroids are disrupting endocrine systems in aquatic animals. In the ocean, filter-feeders like clams and mussels concentrate substances in their tissues which can poison other animals in the food chain such as sea otters.

Please remember- unwanted pharmaceuticals and personal care products should be disposed of in the trash – not down the toilet.

Wastewater treatment plants do not remove all medications or toxins. Treatment plants are only designed to remove solids, nutrients, bacteria and other pathogens. But some dissolved medicines, household chemicals and toxins pass can through the plant end up in waterways and the ocean. The effects of long-term exposure to PPCPs (Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products) on wildlife and people is an emerging area of research. Studies on which substances are most harmful and which biodegrade or persist in the environment will help us develop methods to remove PPCPs from wastewater.

To educate the public, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the American Pharmaceutical Association joined forces in a consumer outreach campaign, and the White House Office of Drug Control Policy also issued procedures. Proper disposal becomes even more crucial when you consider that a large percentage of oral medications pass through the body and end up in wastewater treatment plants anyway.

Cartoon pill bottle advising know where medication goes

Instead of flushing, safety dispose or drop off pharmaceuticals at the following locations:

  • Carmel Police Department Drop Box
  • Pebble Beach Community Services District 647-5642*
  • Central Avenue Pharmacy, Pacific Grove 373-1225*
  • CHOMP Pharmacy 625-4613*

* Policies may vary. Please call to confirm your eligibility

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