Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in Drinking Water

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We have advanced technology to detect more substances and at lower levels than ever before.

Although these compounds are detected at very low levels in source waters, people expose themselves to these same compounds on a regular basis and in much higher concentrations through medicines, food and beverages, and other personal care products.  Their impact on human health at these low levels has not been demonstrated. To protect the environment and your health, please keep these tips in mind: 

  • NEVER flush unneeded or expired medications down a toilet or drain, especially if you use a septic system.
  • The Police Department has several MedReturn drop-off locations for unwanted prescription drugs, vitamins, over-the-counter medications, pet medications, etc.
  • If you must place unused medications in the trash, alter the medications in some way.  Opinions on altering medications vary – some believe the medications should be simply made unpalatable or undesirable to prevent accidental ingestion, while others believe they should be made totally unusable.
  • If the medications will be placed in a landfill, they should be left in their original containers to reduce seepage, making sure all identifying information has been removed. Add something to the medication to make it unusable (kitty litter to liquid medications, glue to pills, or a small amount of disinfectant to any medication) or unpalatable (a small amount of water to pills or salt, flour, or a powdered spice like mustard or turmeric to liquid medications). Package in an obscure container such as an empty margarine tub or non-transparent bag and place it in the trash.
  • Use products sparingly, completely, and according to label recommendations.
  • Unneeded products are best disposed of by placing in a landfill. Leave products in their original containers.
  • When purchasing new products, avoid unnecessary ingredients, such as scents or those labeled antimicrobial.
  • Consider using products with ingredients that are more likely to biodegrade harmlessly in the environment, such as those with ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, or baking soda.

    For more information about pharmaceuticals contact the Water Quality division at 480-644-6461.
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