Healthwise: Disposing Expired or Unwanted Medicines

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

April 28, 2010

Do you have medication that's expired or unnecessary sitting in your cabinet? Well, an event at Martha Jefferson Hospital can help you get rid of that cabinet filler, while preserving the environment and saving lives.

You hear about programs to keep water our supply safe, however the way you dispose of those old pills could be polluting that green effort.

"The most common way for most people to dispose of unwanted pharmaceuticals would be to put them into the sewer system. Obviously, that ends up putting the pharmaceuticals into our drinking water systems, potentially, and into our river systems," said Environment Services Manager, Bill Weigold.

To ensure those pills are disposed of properly, Martha Jefferson Hospital is holding a collection event Saturday from 9am to 12pm at the Outpatient Care Center on Pantops Mountain.

Simply drive up, drop off those unwanted medicines, and drive off. All types of medication are accepted, expired or unwanted, prescription or over-the-counter, children, adult or pet medicines.

"Bring them to us at this event they'll be handled in a confidential manner by a pharmacist, and we will destroy them properly after the event," said Jackie Martin, of the Community Benefits Program.

The environmental benefits make sense. You don't want toxins potentially running through your rivers, streams and drinking water. Although, another concern is the little ones running around your home.

"A lot of people just store medication for years sometimes, which can, in some cases, cause children (or animals) to come across medication and to ingest medications they are coming across in households," said Martin.

Weigold says they will also accept syringes, needles or other so-called sharps. Although, they do ask you to drop "sharps" off in a puncture proof container.

"Most commonly, in a residential setting, a person would dispose of sharps by putting them in a Clorox bottle and then throwing them into the regular waste stream for the waste haulers to pick up. That potentially puts the waste hauler in danger as well because of the fact that they do not know they are picking up sharps," said Weigold.

Organizers say a little medical-themed spring cleaning can get the waste out of your home and keep it from returning through your kitchen faucet.

In 2009, the hospital collected close to 300 pounds of medicine and sharps.

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