The 6th National DEA Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will be held on Saturday, April 27, 2013; from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Prince William County is again participating in the program. Simply bring your prescription drugs to the collection sites at Prince William Hospital, Heathcote Health Center and Sentara Lake Ridge between 10 am to 2:00 pm to safely dispose of unused and old drugs such as powerful narcotic, pain relievers and other controlled substances that carry FDA instructions for flushing the remainder or excess down the toilet to reduce the danger of unintentional use or overdose and illegal abuse. Any other pills or capsules you wish to dispose of will be accepted-prescription and over the counter tablets. Intravenous solutions, injectables such as insulin, and needles will not be accepted. The service is free and anonymous, and though no questions will be asked- Illicit substances such as marijuana or methamphetamine will also not be accepted.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most drugs can be thrown in the household trash, but should be taken out of their original containers and mixed with coffee grinds or kitty litter or otherwise made unpalatable. A few drugs should be flushed down the toilet for safety reasons, but may impact our water supplies. Drugs such as powerful narcotic pain relievers and other controlled substances carry instructions for flushing to reduce the danger of unintentional use or overdose and abuse. This nationwide prescription drug “Take-Back” day is to prevent pill abuse and theft. According to the DEA, prescription drug abuse in the United States is increasing, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses. Studies cited by the DEA show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. So now is your chance to clean out your medicine cabinet without damaging the environment.
Despite the safety reasons for flushing some drugs, waste water treatment systems were simply not designed to handle chemicals and drugs. Recent studies have found trace levels of drug residues in surface water, such as rivers and lakes, and in our drinking water supplies coming from the Potomac and Occoquan Reservoir. Waste water treatment systems including septic systems are not designed to remove drug residue and traces of contaminants are being found in some groundwater aquifers nationwide. However, many scientists report that the main way drug residues enter water systems is by human waste-people taking medications which are not complexly metabolized and then naturally allowing the drugs to pass through their bodies.
The technology used for chemical analysis has advanced to the point that it is possible to detect and quantify nearly any compound known to human kind down to less than a nanogram per liter or parts per trillion (1/1,000,000,000,000). This enhanced analytical ability has allowed scientists to discover that trace levels of pharmaceuticals, potential endocrine disrupting compounds (EDC) and other emerging contaminants exist in much of our nation’s surface water and is appearing in some groundwater and persists in the water through conventional and some advanced water treatments to also appear in our drinking water. Fairfax Water that supplies water to parts of Prince William County has examined their drinking water for some of these emerging contaminants and found traces of some contaminants in both their source water and finished water.
The implications of this ubiquitous exposure are unknown, but of concern. The detection of a chemical does not mean that it will cause health effects or disease, but we really do not know. The guiding principal of toxicology is that there is a relationship between a toxic reaction (the response) and the amount of a substance received (the dose). An important assumption in this relationship is that there is almost always a dose below which no response occurs or can be measured. So if the concentration of the contaminant was low enough there would be no toxic reaction, but that principal is being tested with endocrine disruption, and advances in analysis.
Meanwhile, water utilities and citizens are left not knowing how to address findings of emerging contaminants in their source and finished drinking water. A study conducted by the Water Research Foundation concluded that using a combination of ozone and granular activated carbon in addition to coagulation, sedimentation, filtration and disinfection is effective in removing some of the broad categories of endocrine disrupters, personal care products and pharmaceuticals found in drinking water. Both the Washington Aqueduct and Fairfax water now treat their water supplies with ozone, but it is best to keep drug and other substance out of our groundwater and surface water in the first place. Begin by not flushing chemicals and drugs down the toilet. Bring your unused pills and capsules to the 6th National DEA Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Dispose of chemicals and household hazardous waste at the Prince William Landfill on Wednesdays and Saturdays.