Drugs in New York's Waters
How Drugs Enter NYS Waters and Why DEC is Concerned
New York State pharmacies can now apply to participate in a Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program to collect unwanted controlled and non-controlled medications from household consumers. Applications are due by May 1, 2017.
Until recently, consumers have been told to flush unwanted drugs. With technological advances and research, low levels of drugs are being found in our surface waters. We know that some drugs pass largely unaltered through our wastewater treatment plants and enter rivers and other waters. Drugs from heath care facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, veterinarians' offices, and farms can reach the water. There is also a significant health risk associated with the abuse of prescription drugs that remain in the home. Although the health and environmental consequences are still being studied, we do know that:
Research has shown that continuous
exposure to low levels of medications
has altered the behavior and physiology
of fish and aquatic life.
- Flushed medications have been found in our lakes, rivers and streams
A nationwide study done in 1999 and 2000 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) found low levels of drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids in 80% of the rivers and streams tested. Numerous studies since then confirm this growing problem.
- Fish and other aquatic wildlife are being adversely affected
Studies have shown that male fish have been feminized (produced eggs) when exposed to hormones (e.g. estrogen from birth control pills). Other drugs, such as anti-depressants and beta-blockers, reduce fertility or affect spawning in certain aquatic organisms. Even expired medications can cause these effects.
- Drug-resistant bacteria might develop
Long-term exposure to low levels of antibiotics might result in the evolution of, or selection for, drug-resistant microbes and bacteria.
- Information for households and individual consumers
- Information for institutions
- Information for pharmacies, veterinary offices and retail stores that sell drugs
- How to hold a pharmaceutical collection
Regulated Medical Waste
USGS Pharmaceuticals from Manufacturing Facilities (Link leaves DEC website)
USGS Emerging Contaminants in the Environment (Link leaves DEC website)
USGS Study on Pharmaceuticals in US Streams (Link leaves DEC website)
More about Drugs in New York's Waters:
- Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program - DEC is working with retail chain and independent pharmacies across New York State to establish a pilot pharmaceutical take-back program. The program will cover the costs of consumer drug collection boxes and disposal for two years.
- Safe Medication Disposal for Households - Guidance for households on the proper way to dispose of unwanted and expired medications. How to find a household pharmaceutical collection.
- Information for Institutions - Information for institutions and NYS DOH class 3 institutional dispensers on the proper disposal of over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
- "Don't Flush" Posting Requirements for Pharmacies, Veterinarians, and Retailers - Information for pharmacies, retailers that sell drugs and veterinarians on the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals including the requirements for displaying the required poster.
- How to Hold a Pharmaceutical Collection - The steps necessary, including forms and permissions required, to hold a household pharmaceutical waste collection in New York.