Is your medicine cabinet filled with expired or outdated drugs or medicine you no longer use? Throwing them in the trash puts children and pets at risk of poisoning and stronger drugs can be misused by adults and teens. Flushing or dumping it down a drain is not a good way to dispose of medicine. Pharmaceutical residues have been detected in the drinking water of 24 major metropolitan areas across the country.
Another environmental concern lies with inhalers used by people who have asthma or other breathing problems. Traditionally, many inhalers have contained chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s), a propellant that damages the protective ozone layer. The CFC inhalers are being phased out and replaced with more environmentally friendly inhalers.
“One of the easiest ways for someone to safely dispose of both prescription and over-the-counter medications is through community ‘take back programs’,” said patient safety program director, Teri Spector. “These programs allow the public to bring unused medications to a central location for safe disposal. Your local pharmacist can also provide suggestions on how to safely get rid of medicine.” Medications collected through these ‘take back programs are sent to a specialized industrial landfill, offering a high level of environmental protection.
Spector is with the non-profit public awareness program Think About it Colorado, whose mission is to increase awareness of how patients and providers can improve the safety of health care.
Additional information about home disposal, where to find drug collection sites and other patient safety tips can be found online at www.ThinkAboutItColorado.org.