Flushed medications potentially can harm your water

Flushed medications potentially can harm your water




You wouldn’t feed your outdated prescription medications to your family or your pet.

But, you may be adding old medications to their water by flushing or improperly disposing of prescription medications.

The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration is encouraging participation in the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day to help provide a convenient and responsible means to dispose of medications.

Law enforcement agencies across the country and all along the Brazos basin are hosting drug take-back events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27.

Unused or expired prescription medications are a public safety issue that can result in accidental poisoning, overdose or abuse, according to the DEA.

Drugs that are flushed can contaminate the water supply. The best way to reduce the amount of chemicals in our water is at the source.

The typical American medicine cabinet is full of unused and expired drugs and only a fraction of those get disposed properly, according to Harvard Medical School Harvard Health Publishing. Chemicals from prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications that get into lakes and rivers have affected aquatic life, particularly fish, according to Harvard Medical School.

Across the country, experts are seeing how pharmaceutical medications are making their way into our surface water, said Tiffany Morgan, Brazos River Authority environmental and compliance manager. Typically, the medications break down into very small molecules that a traditional wastewater treatment plant can’t treat, she said.

“Traditional wastewater treatment plants are not designed to handle that small of a molecule and remove it,” she said.

Hormone medications, in particular, have already shown to interfere with fish reproduction, Morgan said.

According to Harvard Medical School Harvard Health Publishing, studies have shown that estrogen medicine has had a feminizing effect on male fish and can alter female-to-male ratios. Estrogen sources can include birth control pills and postmenopausal hormone treatments. Additional research has uncovered popular antidepressant medications concentrated in the brain tissue of fish downstream from wastewater treatment plants, according to the article.

Morgan said another fear steaming from people improperly disposing of medications is that underwater plants may start to absorb those drugs. Fish eat the plants. Bigger fish then eat the plant-eating fish, and then there’s the potential for a higher level of concentration of drugs in fish to take effect on people who eat the fish, she said.

Research into that fear is still in its early stages, she said.



In October, during the 16th annual National Take Back Day, there were 5,839 total collection sites across the U.S. More than 457 tons, or 914,236 pounds, of total weight of prescriptions was collected.

Since the national event began, more than 5,439 tons of unused medications has been properly disposed of at a collection site, according to the DEA.

Proper disposal of unused prescription medication not only saves lives but also protects the environment. Join the Brazos River Authority in protecting the water resources of the Brazos River basin.

There are numerous collection sites across the Brazos basin, including in Limestone, McLennan, Palo Pinto and Parker counties, among others. To find the closest collection site near you, click here.