Blog | Thursday, January 29, 2009

Don't drink the water

ACP Internist's latest cover article describes the potential environmental impact of disposing of drugs down the drain and into the water supply. I ran into this problem after getting a bad series of eye, ear and sinus infections over the holidays.

I worked my way through all the antibiotics as prescribed, but those aren't the problem anyway, said Christian Daughton, PhD, Chief of the Environmental Chemistry Branch at the EPA's National Exposure Research Laboratory in Las Vegas. He told ACP Internist that antibiotics in drinking water occur only at parts-per-trillion range, which is probably a moot concern for creating bacterial resistance.

My main problem is all that leftover pseudoephedrine. I didn't mix well with the pills and didn't finish them. And, while I was looking through my medicine cabinet to throw them out, I found a family's worth of expired prescriptions and over-the-counter meds so old that I can't even remember buying them. If I dispose of them improperly, I'm making sure my neighbors don't get headaches, fevers, sore throats, cramps, coughs, stuffiness, gas, bloating or warts.

I'm supposed to mix it all with kitty litter, but I don't have a cat. If I did, I'd probably need more pseudoephedrine. I drink coffee and thought I'd found a conscience-free way of throwing them out with used grounds, but Dr. Daughton said, "The recommendation to mix drugs with kitty litter or coffee is not without controversy."

To top it all off, only one of the pill bottles is recyclable in my borough. It's not just me getting sick, it's the planet.