Old medications overwhelmingly wind up in trash, waterDNR officials say they're working on ways to boost the percentage of state residents who properly dispose of old pharmaceuticals.
By: By Chuck Quirmbach, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
DNR officials say they're working on ways to boost the percentage of state residents who properly dispose of old pharmaceuticals.
A UW-Extension study released this year found that as of 2011, only two percent of unused prescription and over-the counter medications were safely taken in collection sites, whether one-day, permanent or mail-back. The rest of the meds went into the trash, down the drain or were stored indefinitely. The DNR board discussed the study Thursday. Board chairman Preston Cole says the numbers are troubling.
“We should be worried about what it means to water quality on our rivers, lakes and stream systems, and where is it winding up as relates to our fisheries resource,” he said.
Cole is an administrator at the Milwaukee Department of Public Works and says the city is talking with law enforcement and others to try to give people more options for safe disposal of pharmaceuticals. DNR medical waste coordinator Barb Bickford says the state has also given grants to nine counties to try to boost collection of unused drugs. Bickford also says there may need to be less reliance on medication.
“So that's a big cultural shift: changing our idea that drugs are the answer to any of our health problems,” she said.
In the meantime, Bickford says the DNR is also trying to get more coal-fired power plants or other Wisconsin firms to burn the unwanted pharmaceuticals, to lower the cost of trucking — with law enforcement escort — the drugs to incinerators in other states.
Superior launched a drop box program last year to collect unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
The box is open daily in the Superior Police Department lobby in the Government Center, 1316 N. 14th St. The unused medicine can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
No syringes, thermometers or needles are accepted. Just cross names off prescription bottles and drop them in the green box, which is similar to the book drop box at the Superior Library.
The program was launched to protect the environment and citizens. Keeping unused or expired pharmaceuticals in the home can put a family at risk for theft, prescription drug abuse and accidental poisoning, according to Superior Police Chief Charles LaGesse.
“It’s great to have it right here as a way to keep our waters healthy and clean,” said Wendy Grethen, research assistant with the city of Superior’s environmental services division. The medicines are stored safely until they can be incinerated, LaGesse said.
Read the full report at the DNR’s site: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/HealthWaste/documents/2012HouseholdPharmStudy.pdf