Flushing pharmaceuticals faces new EPA rule
October 20, 2015
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Tons of drugs are flushed each year and find their way into waterways. New rules are coming – I’ll tell you more after this ….
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In the popular movie “Saving Nemo,” the captive little fish was flushed down a drain to the sea and freedom. Lost in the story is the fact that the US health industry each year flushes thousands of tons of unused pharmaceuticals down sink drains and toilets. The meds are expired, outmoded, or unused when patients can’t tolerate them or die, leaving 90 day supplies on their nightstands.
An investigative report by the Associated Press revealed that few of the nation’s hospitals or long term care homes keep data on the drugs they dump. Some is incinerated, some goes to landfills, but most are flushed, without violating any regulations. One thing is clear: traces of the medicines persist through wastewater treatment systems and are discharged into surface or ground waters.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the annual amount of waste pharmaceuticals flushed down sinks and toilets at over 6,400 tons. Last year the EPA added pharmaceuticals to its list of “major pollutants of concern” and is now proposing to ban the flushing practice altogether.
Pharmaceuticals and another closely related culprit — Personal Care Products — began raising red flags in the mid 2000s when chemical traces were increasingly found in surface waters and sediments.
In a first ever nationwide assessment of 524 urban rivers in 2008-2009, the EPA found seven pharmaceuticals in fish tissues, mostly antihistamines and antidepressants.
Alaska has begun doing testing in its Fish Monitoring Program for some fresh water sources with little data so far, said State Veterinarian Bob Gerlach, and no marine sampling has been done.
The public has until December 18th to comment on the EPA’s plans to ban flushing of pharmaceuticals down toilets and drains.
Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.
(http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/ppcp/) . A few years ago they published results of a national study that evaluated rivers across the US. http://water.epa.gov/scitech/cec/upload/cec_ppcp.pdf