Taking back unwanted meds a success so far in Summit County
Summit Daily News
Gathering Summit County’s unwanted medications at specific pharmacy locations has prevented 315 pounds of pharmaceuticals from entering local waterways since the program started about a year ago, High Country Conservation Center waste reduction coordinator Erin Makowsky said.
The program is a partnership between the the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Summit Water Quality Committee, High Country Conservation Center and local City Market stores. Collection bins are available at the Breckenridge and Dillon City Market pharmacies.
“Flushing pharmaceuticals down the drain can cause pollution of our waterways and in our bodies. It’s both a human health and an environmental concern,” the conservation center’s director, Jennifer Santry, said. “We’ve focused our efforts on educating and empowering residents and visitors to properly dispose of unwanted medicines in the take-back boxes and the community has been very receptive to this idea.”
Makowsky said a follow-up survey delivered to 16,700 post office boxes in Summit County showed that more than 85 percent of respondents said they were willing to drop off unused or expired medications at the secure, tamper-proof drop-boxes. The program is open to anyone who wants to participate, but conservation center representatives say everyone should be aware of what’s accepted and what’s not before dropping off medications.
“Pharmaceuticals are part of an emerging group of chemicals, which also includes personal care products like lotions, shampoos, soaps and cosmetics that scientists are studying in drinking and surface water,” Makowsky said. “Some studies have indicated that many of these compounds may act as weak estrogen or endocrine disruptors, sometimes causing deformities and reproductive side effects in fish, reptiles and even birds.”
More than 100 different pharmaceuticals are being identified in surface and drinking water as they pass through wastewater treatment facilities, a significant number of which are from flushing unwanted medicines, Makowsky said. She added that wastewater treatment plants are not currently engineered specifically for removal of pharmaceutical or for other unregulated contaminants.
One of the easiest ways to avoid ecological disruptions is to properly dispose of the chemical materials, she said.
“Unfortunately, the common method for disposing of unwanted medications is to flush them down the drain or dump them in the trash. This can result in traces of pharmaceuticals entering our water supplies and environment,” said Lane Wyatt, administrator of the Summit Water Quality Committee.
Wyatt’s committee is continually testing water in Summit County to look for traces of pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and will compare results as data is collected over two years. The goal is to determine whether the collection program is successful in reducing the chemical compounds in the local water supplies.
For more information, visit the High Country Conservation Center at http://www.highcountryconservation.org or call (970) 668-5703.
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