The effects of pharmaceutical waste on the environment has been an area of concern and study for several years. Pharmaceutical waste is known to pollute the environment through various means such as human and pet secretion, although this amount may be low compared to improper disposal of medications. For many years, people disposed of outdated or unused medication by throwing in the trash or flushing down the drain.  Even medical facilities regularly disposed of pharmaceuticals by flushing.

More attention was given to environmental pollution of pharmaceutical waste with the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, as well as drug disposal regulations set by the Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA, and the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.  While the majority medications known to pollute the environment are from hospitals and long-term care facilities for human consumption, veterinary clinics have also been a source of pharmaceutical waste contaminating the environment.

How Does Pharmaceutical Waste Affect Ecosystems?

According to the study, The risks of environmental effects of pharmaceutical and medicinal products, between 30% to 90% of orally administered medications are excreted in the urine of humans and animals as active substances. While some pharmaceutical waste may not be very toxic with environmental risks being negligible, it is increasingly clear that some medications pose environmental risks in specific cases.

Pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, estrogens, anti-parasiticides and anti-mycotics cause ecotoxicological effects such as an instance when the population of vultures on an Indian subcontinent noticeably declined and the painkiller pharmaceutical, Diclofenac, was found to be present in the carcasses of animals that the vultures were feeding on.

The effects of pharmaceutical waste on humans is still the topic of many studies. When pharmaceutical waste contaminates the water supply, levels of residue could still be present in drinking water although it may be considered too low to be a concern for humans. Long-term exposure however can occur through contaminated water supplies.  The study The environmental side effects of medication reports that “recent monitoring studies have detected low levels of a wide range of pharmaceuticals, including hormones, steroids, antibiotics and parasiticides, in soils, surface waters and groundwaters.”

While drug disposal regulations attempt to address these concerns, we have to do better when managing pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical waste. Hospitals, long-term care facilities, veterinary clinics, pharmacies, and any other establishment that prescribes or administers medications and controlled substances must have a clear pharmaceutical waste management policy, that includes a reliable and compliant method of drug disposal that does not compromise soil and water sources.

Rx Destroyer™ offers a solution with easy to use pharmaceutical waste products that begin dissolving medications on contact. As medications are dispersed in the activated carbon slurry, diversion is discouraged and potential environmental harm is reduced. We assist our clients with mail back programs, waste hauler services and compliance consultations through our trusted partner GTC Consulting.  Contact us to learn how we help our clients with pharmaceutical waste disposal products, implementation, and industry best practices to prevent environmental contamination from medication waste.