Earthworms’ Castings

by Jean Ponzi

Rx Recycling

Saturday April 30 will be the second annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Dozens of St. Louis area sites, in Missouri and Illinois, will accept unused and outdated medications at no charge, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you have any of those little orange plastic bottles rattling around in cabinets or drawers, this Earth Day season is a great time to clear them out for responsible disposal.
And if your family has any kind of conventional relationship with standard medical practice, chances are your Rx roundup will gather quite a batch of pills.

Thanks in part to 1999 changes to federal regulation of broadcast-media pharmaceutical ads (Ask Your Doctor about ….), and fueled by our societal expectation of instant results, drug sales in 2002 surpassed a dozen prescriptions for every American man, woman and child. Maybe we’re lucky. As of 2009, the U.S. and New Zealand are the only two countries where direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs is legal.

It’s now common practice, especially for elderly people, to juggle drug combos and accumulate plenty of drug leftovers – not to mention dealing with whopping drug costs and complicated health effects. A person has to really analyze and bravely speak up to Ask Your Doctor why and if you really need those pills.

For a long time, drug experts told us to simply (and “safely”) flush unused meds down the toilet. Now other experts (scientists, public utility managers) warn about “emerging contaminants” in public water supplies, especially antidepressants, antibiotics, birth-control pills and cosmetics. Water treatment systems are not designed to neutralize or filter this stuff. Whether it’s getting into water from disposal or pee, pharmaceuticals are flowing – and feminizing fish!

Recent U.S. Geological Survey and University of Colorado studies of fish in Front Range waterways connected pharmaceutical contaminants to disrupted reproductive systems, leading to feminization — fish with male and female sex parts and populations of fish with many more females than males. This is not a sensible way to “feminize” our hard-driving modern life.

Rx Recycling also helps deal with drug abuse. The Partnership for a Drug Free American says that 2,500 teens each day use prescription drugs to get high for the first time, and a majority of abused pharmaceuticals are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet.
Last year, the DEA’s partnership with over 3,000 state and local law enforcement agencies netted more than 121 tons of pills on their first National Take Back Day. Even controlled substances. No questions asked.

So let’s add Rx Recycling to our Green practices for Earth Day this year – coupled with intelligent use of medicines in general. Side effects may include decreased health costs and complications, protection of Earth’s finite precious water supply, and more male fish.
Find a take-back site near you at www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback or search U.S. DEA National Take-Back Initiative.

Jean Ponzi hosts the environmental talk show “Earthworms” on FM-88 KDHX. Listen live Mondays, 7-8 p.m. or catch archived shows at www.kdhx.org.

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