Many tests have proven that the medications we flush down the toilet to get rid of are showing up in our drinking water and waterways, poisoning us and the wildlife. Most people do not think before they flush an old prescription medications down the toilet that that is not the end of it.
If you think this is a problem that doesn’t affect you, you are wrong. The improper disposal of pharmaceutical drugs ends up right back in your water supply where you are ingesting and absorbing all kinds of drugs you never planned on in your drinking water through city water systems .High levels of chemical estrogens have already been detected in the majority of city drinking water. These chemical estrogens are up to 1000 times more potent than what the body makes and have been proven to cause hormone imbalances leading to many diseases, neurological disorders, weight problems and digestion problems.
My mother was a member of her lake association, and when she found out that the lake she lives on was actually being poisoned by prescription medications when it was tested by the DNR, she took action to try and educate her neighbors on the proper way to dispose of medications, and set them up with a local medication dispensary that would collect old and expired medications for the elderly.
However, just flushing old meds is not the only way they end up in our water supply and waterways. When we take medications, they are flushed out of our bodies when we urinate as well. Also, numerous medications such as growth hormones, antibiotics and supplements are given to livestock and they in turn urinate these chemicals into their environment.
We’re now at a point where pharmaceuticals in the environment have become a big problem because we have not disposed of them properly for years. Millions of vultures died off in Asia after exposure to an anti-inflammatory painkiller used in cows. Male fish have also been observed with feminized characteristics due to exposure to synthetic estrogens in birth control pills.
Otters, sadly, may be next in line, as researchers have discovered traces of drugs in their fur, which could be having serious consequences. As reported by the campaign group Chem Trus.
Pharmaceutical pollution is by no means a threat directed at only one species or one country. It’s a worldwide problem, and one that has the potential to threaten virtually every species on the planet.
As recently reported in the journal Philosophical Transactions.
“Expanding and aging human populations require ever increasing amounts of pharmaceuticals to maintain health. Recent studies have revealed that pharmaceuticals, both human and veterinary, disperse widely in aquatic and terrestrial environments with uptake into a range of organisms.
Pharmaceuticals are designed to have biological actions at low concentrations rendering them potentially potent environmental contaminants. The potential risks that pharmaceuticals pose to the health and long-term viability of wild animals and ecosystems are only beginning to be assessed and understood.”
For instance, exposure to low concentrations of psychiatric drugs can alter foraging patterns, activity levels and risk-taking behaviors in fish and birds.
The common antidepressant fluoxetine has been found to cause starlings to eat less, and synthetic estrogens in birth control pills reduce fish populations in lakes. Changes such as these have the potential to affect the entire ecosystem.
As reported in The Guardian:
“Another new study, led by Karen Kidd at the University of New Brunswick, showed synthetic estrogen used in the birth control pill not only wiped out fathead minnows in lakes used for experiments in Ontario, but also seriously disrupted the whole ecosystem.
The lakes’ top predator – trout – declined by 23-42%, due to the loss of the minnow and other prey, while insects increased as they were no longer being eaten by the minnows.”
The Proper Way to Dispose of Meds.
You can help by not flushing unused medications down your toilet or drain. What should you do with them instead? Some states are considering legislation that would require drug manufacturers to develop and pay for a program to collect residents’ unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and safely dispose of them.
As it stands, however, the EPA and other government agencies have released the following guidelines for “safely” disposing of drugs:
- Throw most drugs in the trash after crushing them or dissolving them in water, mixing them with kitty litter, coffee grounds or other unappealing materials, and placing the mixture in a sealed plastic bag.
- Remove and destroy any prescription labels before throwing away the containers.
- In some states, pharmacies can take back medications. When in doubt, you should ask your pharmacist for advice.
Unfortunately, some of these suggestions merely move the environmental peril from one place to another — such as diluting medicines in water and mixing them in garbage that eventually ends up in a landfill anyway … but it does stop the drugs from travelling through water treatment systems that are ill-equipped to treat them.
On a larger scale, Chem Trust recommends that new medicines be designed so they don’t persist in the environment, and sewage treatment works be improved to treat medications that come through.
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