Press Club

Healthy Paws: Safe Disposal of Medicines and Preventing Environmental Contamination

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

While research continues, it is becoming clear that chemical pollutants are impacting animal health, human health and the environment.

Human-made chemicals flow into streams and waterways where it comes into contact with wildlife. Wildlife interacts with these products in unpredictable ways. Pharmaceuticals are in the mix of contaminants arriving from various places like wastewater treatment plants, drains of manure fertilized fields, washed off livestock farms, landfills and septic systems.

Any household or farm product has the potential to become an environmental contaminant. One of the largest concerns is also the easiest to source and reduce, unused drugs that are flushed down the drain.

The pollutants are dangerous to fish, insects and other life with the potential to kill, prevent reproduction, change behavior or alter appearances.

Potential human health concerns are unknown because the pharmaceutical dosage in waterways is low. However, research shows that antimicrobial concentrations in wastewater may be high enough to create selection pressure and harm beneficial microbes.

Antibiotic resistance is also a big concern. Thousands of pharmaceutical compounds, including animal-use drugs, are used in the U.S.

Along with current research and studying the ability of wastewater treatment plants to remove pharmaceuticals, we as veterinarians and clients of veterinarians have a role and responsibility to dispose of unused drugs properly to reduce the risk of environmental contamination as much as possible.

The AVMA and FDA have developed guidance on how to get rid of unwanted drugs. The best choices for disposal of unused or expired medications are the following:

  • Medicine take-back options
  • Disposal in the household trash
  • Flushing certain potentially dangerous medicines in the toilet

For more information on these options, what is available in your area, and the potential environmental impact of flushing medicines please visit this FDA web-site.

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