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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Medication Disposal


We have all had to take medication at one time or another. It is just part of life. You get sick, go to the doctor, and they prescribe something to take care of what is bothering you. Unless you are taking an antibiotic (which you need to finish) you might have some left. What do you do with that leftover medicine? If not properly disposed of, medications can end up in our streams, rivers, lakes, and ground water.

There is numerous research showing that the presence of these medications is having a very negative effect on aquatic animal populations. Some of these medications are having a serious effect on the balance of males and females.

So what can you do to help eliminate this problem?

  1. Do not "flush" them- This was the standard practice for getting rid of unwanted medication. But by flushing them, you are introducing them into our water sources. The long term effects are not fully understood, but this could mean that it is more expensive to treat drinking water or could also reduce some water sources from being used recreationally.
  2. Do not throw them away- This poses a danger to family pets or other small residents in your home. It is also an easy target for kids or others who might want to use the drugs for something other than medicinal purposes.
  3. Take them to a drop-off site- There are many places that you can drop off you unused, unwanted, or expired medication. The Illinois EPA has a webpage that allows you to search for a location that has a drop off site near your home (http://www.epa.illinois.gov/services-locator/). Many police departments and county health departments have drop-off locations, but check the website and call the location to ensure they still are collecting medication.
  4. What can you take?- All sites take non-controlled, non-hazardous medications. This means that for the most part prescribed or over-the-counter medications, creams, ointments, and suppositories are accepted. Some collection points will take controlled substances, but to be sure, contact the collection site to get a full list of what they accept. When you are taking your medications, be sure to remove any of your personal information to ensure your privacy.

Proper disposal of medications is an important and easy way to protect your water. If you have any questions, please contact Jason Haupt (jdhaupt@illinois.edu).  More information can be found at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/unusedmeds/.



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