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MEDICATING OUR WATER

​Flushing pills down the toilet: How it's harming our water

Over the years we've heard many different opinions on the disposal of medicines. One of the most popular methods has been flushing pills down the toilet or washing them down a drain. In recent years, though, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency disregarded this recommendation for almost all drugs (exceptions are listed on the FDA website). Even very small amounts of medicines can affect our water resources and the animals that live within it.

 Medicines that are flushed or poured down the drain can end up polluting our waters, impacting aquatic species and contaminating our food and water supplies. Most medicines are not completely removed by wastewater treatment plants or septic systems. Scientists have found medicines in surface, ground, and marine waters, as well as in soils and sediments. Even at very low levels, medicines in the environment may hurt aquatic life.

 Research has shown that prescription drugs can disrupt the behaviors of aquatic creatures, including fish. Even at a very low concentration, the effects can accumulate over time. A recent study reported that male fish whose brain contained traces of the prescription drug Zoloft appeared less anxious. Although this might seem like a positive effect, the decreased anxiety levels made the fish less effective in seeking shelter from their predators, resulting in shorter life spans.

 So what is the safest way to dispose of medication without it damaging our water or the creatures living within it? A few times each year, the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, as other local, state, and federal law enforcement, works in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to collect unused and expired medicines. It's typically a one-day, four-hour event on a Saturday called Got Drugs? The Sheriff's Office coordinates four drop-off locations at local Publix stores in Osceola County. Got Drugs? is usually held in April and September.

 If you're looking to dispose of mediciation and a drug take-back event is not available, the Kissimmee Police Department (8 N. Stewart Ave., Kissimmee) has a box located in their lobby for prescription drug drop-offs. Citizens can drop off prescription drugs Monday through Friday, 8pm to 5pm, no questions asked. The Police Department does ask citizens to remove or black out the prescription label that includes their personal information. They do not accept needles or liquids.