Drugs in New York's Waters
How drugs get into our waters and why DEC is concerned
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 and farms can also find their way into the water. 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 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.
- Fish and other aquatic wildlife are being adversely affected
Studies have shown that male fish have been feminized (produced eggs) when exposed to hormones (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
- List of scheduled and pending pharmaceutical collections
(see right column links)
Press release: DEC Tells New Yorkers: Don't Flush Medications
Pharmaceuticals in Our Waters: An Emerging Concern
Pharmaceuticals as Emerging Contaminants: A Rationale for Reduction in New York State's Waters
A New Prescription: Do not flush your unused drugs
United States Geological Survey
Emerging Contaminants in the Environment
Pharmaceuticals, Hormones and Other Organic Wastewater Contaminants in U.S. Streams
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products as Pollutants
Washington Citizens for Resource Conservation
A list of strategies and additional resources to reduce medical waste for consumers, health care practitioners, pharmaceutical manufacturers and insurers. See "Reduce medical waste" in the Links Leaving DEC's Website at right.
The Drug Take-Back Network
A centralized source of information on drug take-back programs and disposal issues across the country. Offers help to consumers looking for safe ways to dispose of unwanted pharmaceuticals
More about Drugs in New York's Waters:
- Information 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.
- Information 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.
- Household Drug Collection Schedule - Schedule of upcoming household drug collections in New York State
- How to Hold a Pharmaceutical Collection - The steps necessary, including forms and permissions required, to hold a household pharmaceutical waste collection in New York.
- What DEC and Others are Doing to Reduce Drugs in Surface Waters - Describes what actions DEC and other states and organizations are taking to reduce the amount of medications that are disposed of improperly
- FAQs About Proper Disposal of Drugs - Questions about the human health issues and environmental impacts of pharmaceuticals in surface waters and safe disposal methods