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Don't Flush Drugs

Medication Disposal

Increasing amounts of prescription drugs and personal care products (PPCPs) are being detected in U.S. rivers, waterways, and groundwater. Wastewater treatment facilities are not equipped to "filter out" these chemicals, so drugs like antidepressants, cholesterol reducers, and antibiotics are being detected in drinking water supplies. The risk to humans and animals of long-term exposure to these contaminants in drinking water is unknown.

In addition, many children are the victims of accidental poisonings each year due to medications and personal care products in the home. In order to protect our children and the environment, we must ensure that medications and personal care products are properly handled, stored and disposed!

Medication Disposal Guidelines

1. Clear Out Old Medications From Medicine Cabinet!  Confusion and dangerous mix-ups can occur when leftover or expired pharmaceuticals are stored.  Medications can also get into the wrong hands.  Medications are a major source of poisoning in young children.  The following reports were made to Michigan's Poison Control Center for accidental ingestion of medications in children under 5 years old from January-June 2008:

  • Ibuprofen - 877 reports
  • Pediatric Multivitamins - 501 reports
  • Antihistamines - 474 reports
  • Antibiotics - 463 reports
  • Calcium Supplements - 333 reports

2.  Don't Put Medications Down the Toilet or Sink!  Whether you are on a septic system or a municipal sewer, traces of flushed chemicals can reach the environment.  Waste water treatment facilities can not filter out these chemicals.

3.  Wrap and Trash!  Remove or black out and personal information on the label, but ensure the drug name is still visible.  Wrap medication containers in duct tape, followed by several layers of plastic bags, to prevent crushing in the trash truck and contents spilling out.  Many people are reluctant to send medications to the landfill for fear they will someday reach the groundwater aquifer.  But modern landfills are lined, and the leachate is collected and treated to remove the harmful compounds.

4.  Ask Your Doctor or Local Pharmacy!  Ask your doctor or local pharmacy if they will take back unused/expired medications for disposal.  Note:  There might be a disposal fee involved.


For More Information / Helpful Links:

Washtenaw County Medication Disposal Program 




Poison Control


Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal



Household Hazardous Waste Day

April 28 , 2012


September 29, 2012



This page was adopted from Washtenaw County's Don't Flush Drugs Program.




Environmental Department

Wetlands, Woodlands, Soil Erosion