Teaming up to take back drugs – and protect water quality!

April 12, 2017
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This spring, DEP is partnering with the Montgomery County Police to host a safe and free event that will allow residents to anonymously dispose of their unwanted, unused, or expired prescription and over-the-counter drugs. At this year’s GreenFest event, the Police will host a table where residents can safely drop off any pharmaceuticals.


Why are drug take-back programs important?

Improperly disposed prescriptions can affect both people and the planet. Leaving unused or expired drugs in the medicine cabinet can allow friends, family, and those closest to us to easily access those drugs at any time. By disposing of unneeded prescription, we can prevent illegal use, distribution, and accidental ingestion of drugs.


Image: Kaleb Kimmelman, Flickr

What happens when I don’t dispose of my pharmaceuticals properly?

For a long time, a commonly recommended method of disposing of drugs was dumping them down the drain. This solved the problem of keeping prescriptions out of the hands of people, but instead created a number of problems for our waterways.

Everything that we put down our drains eventually flows to a water treatment facility, where a number of steps are taken to remove solids, bacteria, and sediment from the water before it is released back into our waterways again (For a very cool look at what goes on at your local water treatment facility, click here).

Unfortunately, this process cannot remove all the dissolved medications that are now in the water, and so they pass along into our streams and rivers too, creating a health hazard for aquatic animals such as fish, tadpoles and frogs, and their surrounding ecosystem.

One of the more prominent documented impacts of pharmaceuticals in water is the disruption of the reproductive abilities of fish. According to the Maryland Department of the Environment, certain drugs contain endocrine-active chemicals, which have been known to disrupt the hormonal systems and reproductive organs in male fish, leading to the inability to properly breed. Not only does this result in a lowered fish population, it negatively impacts the species that are dependent on fish and their role in the ecosystem.


How can Montgomery County residents make a difference?

The good news is – it is both easy and free to prevent these problems, and that’s why DEP is excited to team up with the Montgomery County Police! By holding our own Prescription Take-Back Program at GreenFest, we’re giving citizens a chance make a positive impact on the environment and learn a little about the program, all while having fun!

To find out more about GreenFest and our Prescription Take-Back event on May 6th, please visit the GreenFest website.

Time for some cabinet cleaning!


Can’t make our drug take-back event?  View our online resource on proper drug disposal. 


Written by Liz Scanlon, intern at Montgomery County DEP, Division of Environmental Policy and Compliance

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