Help Protect New York's Waterways: Participate in Drug Take Back Day October 26
Return Unwanted Medicines - News

New York, NY, October 21, 2019 - New York Sea Grant (NYSG) is encouraging the public to take expired, unused and unwanted pharmaceuticals to designated retail and law enforcement agency locations on the 18th National Take Back Day, to be held October 26, 2019 from 10 am to 2 pm.

This federally-designated day for collection of waste pharmaceuticals prevents the entry of such products as antibiotics, blood pressure regulators, pain medications, tranquilizers, and hormones, into state waterways and drinking supply sources.

“Proper disposal of unused medications is critically important to protect the public drinking water supply and New York's marine waters and Great Lakes ecosystem," says NYSG Communications Manager Paul C. Focazio. "Take Back Day sites accepting these pharmaceuticals provide easily accessible drop-off points so everyone can do their part to protect New York’s waters.”

To find a 2019 National Prescription Drug Take Back Day authorized collection site, visit the U.S. DEA National Take Back Day Initiative Web site.

NYSG offers "Return Unwanted Medicines" resources, which include information about the impact of keeping pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCP) out of the Great Lakes and other water sources.

This information is well summarized in the ‘Undo the Environmental Chemical Brew: Keep Unwanted Medications and Chemicals Out of the Great Lakes’ guide developed by NYSG. The guide lists 17 different types of PPCPs, including antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives, antidepressants, cosmetics, and vitamins, that are finding their way into the Great Lakes, the source of drinking water for 42 million people in the United States and Canada.

In addition to its "Return Unwanted Medicines" resources, NYSG also offers a number of other "Green Tips for Coastal Living" via its Web site.

In the coming year, results are expected from a two-year NYSG-funded research project that is examining the effectiveness of advanced water treatment options, environmental levels and the potential effects of pharmaceuticals in New York waters.

“Research is increasing our understanding of the impact of bioactive chemical substances on the aquatic food web," said Focazio. 

For example, research shared with the Great Lakes Sea Grant network has documented the presence of antidepressants and their metabolites as well as antihistamines in fish such as largemouth bass, yellow perch, walleye and steelhead trout in the Niagara River. Although researchers believe the levels do not pose a threat to humans eating the fish, they are problematic and one of the reasons we do not want people to flush medicines down the toilet or drain.

In April 2018, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation launched a $2 million Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back initiative with pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities and other sites participating in the collection and proper disposal of the unwanted, unused pharmaceuticals. Learn more at

National Prescription Drug Take Back Days take place twice a year, in the spring and fall. According to the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, a total of 937,000 pounds (or some 469 tons) of expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs were amassed by close to 5,000 collection sites nationwide during the previous National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This collection, when added to the amounts from the 16 prior national collection days, adds up to more than 11.8 million pounds (over 5,900 tons) of medicines brought in through the program.

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Additionally, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

If no medicine take-back programs or DEA-authorized collectors are available in your area, and there are no specific disposal instructions on the label, the U.S. FDA says you can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash. More information can be found via FDA's "Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know" Web site.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 33 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly. Our program also produces an occasional e-newsletter,"NOAA Sea Grant's Social Media Review," via its blog,

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