Protect Our Water from Pharmaceutical Drugs

Enact a manufacturer-funded take-back program in New York

Take Action Now

Well over four billion prescription medications are dispensed in the U.S. annually, and many of those drugs go unused. A lack of options to easily and safely dispose of unused or expired pharmaceutical drugs is not only contributing to the drug abuse epidemic but also to the pollution of our treasured waters.

Drugs stored in the household medicine cabinets or disposed of in the trash often end up in the hands of children, teenagers, and potential abusers. The lack of disposal options is also perpetuating the antiquated practice of flushing unused drugs, which is polluting our waters across the state with trace amounts of pharmaceutical drugs.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and numerous other agencies agree that the safest method of pharmaceutical disposal is through take-back programs (i.e., drug collection drop-boxes at police precincts and retail pharmacies, mail-back programs, or municipal take-back events).

The pharmaceutical industry makes billions of dollars in profits each year; however, it contributes nothing to safe disposal—leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. Even with state and local governments spending millions on safe disposal programs, many New Yorkers still do not have access to safe disposal for unwanted prescription drugs. New York State should require pharmaceutical manufacturers to fund a comprehensive, statewide take-back program that would provide safe disposal options for all New Yorkers.

Email Governor Cuomo today! Urge him to include a manufacturer-funded safe pharmaceutical disposal program in his executive budget proposal for 2018-19.

Background:

Leftover Prescription Drugs are Contributing to a Public Health Crisis
Many people stockpile unused drugs in household medicine cabinets, which are then accessible to abusers or lead to accidental poisonings, especially among children. Seven out of 10 people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends or family members. The national drug abuse epidemic is now the leading cause of injury deaths in the U.S., ahead of car accidents.

Pharmaceutical Drugs are Polluting New York's Waters
The lack of safe disposal options is also perpetuating the antiquated and harmful practices of flushing unwanted drugs and throwing them in the trash. Sewage treatment plants and septic systems are not designed to remove these contaminants; therefore, every time we flush we are polluting our waters with trace amounts of drugs. Drugs thrown into the trash are most often sent to landfills, with pharmaceuticals then ending up in landfill leachate (water that passes through the landfill). Both outdated disposal practices contribute to the widespread pharmaceutical pollution in our waters:

National studies have found trace amounts of pharmaceutical drugs in drinking water supplies of 41 million Americans.
A study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey found low levels of drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives, and steroids in 80% of rivers and streams tested.
A study led by the University at Buffalo found high levels of anti-depressants in numerous species of fish in the Niagara River.
Studies have found trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in NYC reservoirs and Suffolk County aquifers.
 

While the potential health effects on humans require additional study, pharmaceutical drug contamination has been proven to adversely impact fish and aquatic life. For example, male fish have been feminized (produced eggs) when exposed to hormones (birth control pills). Other drugs, such as antidepressants and beta-blockers, reduce fertility or affect spawning and behavior in certain aquatic organisms.

Across the U.S., nearly twenty local governments and two states have adopted policies to implement a manufacturer-funded safe pharmaceutical disposal program. The cost to manufacturers is negligible—it is estimated to cost just one cent per $10 of medications sold.

Thank you for taking action. Together we make a difference!

Sincerely,

All of Us at CCE