Chemicals in pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) enter wastewater when you bathe or wash your hands. Drugs taken by people, pets, and farm animals, or discarded leftover meds, go down the drain or are carried by stormwater from landfills and farms and enter water sources. Municipal waste treatment plants and septic systems often do not remove them.
Insufficient regulations allow toxic manufactured chemicals to build up in the environment and bioaccumulate in the food chain.
Many, like manufactured fragrances and triclosan (a pesticide used in antibacterial soaps), act as endocrine disruptors. Aquatic organisms, unborn babies, and young children are most vulnerable to reproductive and developmental harm. Observed feminization and other developmental problems in aquatic animals have raised concerns about these toxic chemicals in water supplies. Antibiotic resistance is another problem. Studies have detected PPCP residues in surface and ground water and drinking water.
Safe disposal keeps unused medications out of the environment and also prevents drug abuse and unintentional poisoning. Citizens can help by choosing and purchasing wisely, changing habits, disposing of unused medications at collection events and take-back sites, and by sharing their knowledge with friends, families, policy makers and their communities.