A common misconception is that it is safer to flush expired or unused pills down the toilet to avoid children or pets getting into them, but it is actually safer to dispose of medication in the garbage can. When pills are flushed down the toilet the chemicals are spread into the water that supplies the local community, which has become a major environmental problem the last few years.
A recent study done by the United States Geological Survey found that out of 139 creeks/streams sampled in over 30 states, 80% had low concentrations of chemicals found in common prescription medications. While these concentrations are low they can have a great effect on the environment and safety of the public water supply. Minnesotans are proud of their 10,000 lakes so it’s important that they don’t become contaminated by chemicals used in medication. St. Paul Roto-Rooter has some advice for properly and safely disposing of over-the-counter pills and prescription medications:
- Remove all personal information from the bottle, by either peeling off the label or blacking out the information on the label with a permanent marker.
- Whether there are pills left in the container or not, it is smart to fill it up with water and an absorbent material like cat litter or baking soda to show no intent for reuse or refill of the bottle. Once full, place a strip of tape over the lid to secure it and avoid future leakage.
- If the bottle is fragile or glass it is best it put it into a reseal able container (such as an old margarine container), place into a plastic bag, zip it shut and dispose of it in the garbage can.
- For expired over-the-counter pills and vitamins, it is best to place them all into a sealable plastic bag, secure it and toss it in the trash.
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