California tells residents not to flush pharmaceuticals

Published 26 September 2008

In an effort to limit the contamination of drinking water with pharmaceuticals, California launches “No Drugs Down the Drain Week”

In the 1980s, First Lady launched the “Just Say No” to drugs campaign. The state of California, Nancy Reagan’s home since 1949, has different drugs in mind when it launches the “No Drugs Down the Drain Week” on 2 October. California is warning its thirty-six million residents not to flush pharmaceuticals down the toilet or drain, or they may end up in a river or a reservoir near, likely to contaminate drinking water. State and local officials are teaming with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a “No Drugs Down the Drain Week,” a program which recommends that drugs be dropped at special collection sites or tossed in the trash.

AP reports that the event comes less than two weeks after the news agency published an investigative report about the dangers of flushing millions of pounds of unused pharmaceuticals annually by the American health care industry and consumers. The AP investigation has revealed that tests show the drinking water supplies of at least 46 million Americans contain minute concentrations of pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, anti-convulsants and mood stabilizers. Researchers have found evidence that even extremely diluted concentrations of pharmaceutical residues harm fish, frogs, and other aquatic species in the wild. Related research reports that human cells fail to grow normally in the lab when exposed to trace concentrations of certain drugs.

The awareness week is part of a bill sponsored by State Senator Joe Simitian that funds pilot projects allowing consumers to drop off old prescriptions at retailers and public facilities. “I think the public will step up, if they’re told how to dispose of drugs the right way,” Simitian said. “If you want people to do the right thing, make it easy for them to do it.”