Studies have shown the presence of a wide range of over-the-counter and prescription drugs in our waterways due to the flushing of old or unwanted meds and human waste.
In addition, farms provide a runoff problem, and an ongoing AP investigation found that millions of pounds of unused pharmaceuticals are flushed by hospitals and long-term care facilities in the US.
But how else can people dispose of these drugs?
Chicago has come up with a solution. According to the Environmental News Service, the Windy City has set up drop boxes at five police stations where people can deposit expired or unused prescription drugs. The meds will then be packaged and sent to a state-authorized incinerator for destruction.
The program is funded by the EPA and the Illinois EPA.
Mayor Richard Daley is quoted in the article: "Many people may not be aware that improperly disposing of prescription or over-the-counter drugs, such as flushing them down the toilet, contributes to pharmaceuticals found in our waterways."
In March, according to the article, the Illinois EPA tested the drinking water of five public water supplies in Illinois, and identified 16 pharmaceuticals, including caffeine, nicotine, aspirin and the insect repellent DEET, prescription drugs such as the antibiotic penicillin, the anti-convulsant Dilantin and the thyroid hormone replacement Levothyroxine.
While this is a step in the right direction, the article says the majority of trace pharmaceuticals found in the city's waterways are the result of human and livestock excretion.
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