On Air: Why Take Drugs Back on April 29? New York Sea Grant Guide has Answers
Return Unwanted Medicines - News


Helen Domske, NY Sea Grant's Coastal Education Specialist, P: 716.645.3610, E: hmd4@cornell.edu

Katherine Bunting-Howarth, New York Sea Grant Associate Director, Cornell University, E: keb264@cornell.edu, P: 607-255-2832

Buffalo, NY, April 25, 2017 - Twice a year New York residents can take their unused pharmaceuticals back to collection sites statewide. Why they should do so is highlighted in the ‘Undo the Environmental Chemical Brew: Keep Unwanted Medications and Chemicals Out of the Great Lakes’ guide developed by New York Sea Grant. The guide is posted online at www.nyseagrant.org/unwantedmeds.

The guide written by New York Sea Grant Coastal Education Specialist Helen Domske, associate director of the Great Lakes Program at the University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, includes tips on how citizens can keep unwanted pharmaceuticals and personal care products, also called PPCPs, out of local waters and out of the Great Lakes system.

"Taking unused prescription drugs to collection sites helps reduce the impact of unwanted substances on the water resource that provides drinking water to 42 million people in the United States and Canada and aquatic habitat for a host of fishes and other wildlife," Domske said.

The Undo the Chemical Brew 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.

The Undo the Environmental Chemical Brew guide from New York Sea Grant (above, at right) encourages Drug Take Back participation and proper disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals and personal care products to protect Great Lakes waters. It is part of a larger campaign produced by the Great Lakes Sea Grant network, which NYSG is a member.

Research by New York Sea Grant and other science organizations has tracked the feminization of fish populations downstream from wastewater treatment plants to estrogen and its components found in prescription drugs.

"Researchers are increasingly documenting the impact of bioactive chemical substances in PPCPs throughout the aquatic food web on fishes, frogs, mussels and other freshwater organisms. We do not want people flushing unwanted and unused medicines down the toilet or drain," Domske said.

A New York Sea Grant-funded, two-year research project that began in February 2016 is examining the effectiveness of advanced water treatment options, environmental levels and potential effects of pharmaceuticals in New York waters.

What You Can Do

The biannual National Prescription Drug Take Back Days are an initiative of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in cooperation with law enforcement agencies nationwide. Authorized collection sites are posted online via the U.S. DEA National Take Back Day Initiative Web site. Collection hours are 10am to 2pm on Saturday, April 29, 2017.

During last spring's Take-Back Day, the DEA reports that Americans turned in more unused prescription drugs than on any of the previous 10 events since it began in 2010, demonstrating their understanding of the value of this service. Some 893,498 pounds of unwanted medicines—about 447 tons—were collected by the DEA and over 4,200 of its state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners at almost 5,400 sites spread through all 50 states.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration provides a comprehensive list of drugs that it recommends for disposal via the sink or toilet.

In addition to Sea Grant's "Return Unwanted Medicines" resources, our program offers a number of other "Green Tips for Coastal Living."

On Air: Drug Take Back Day helps protect fish in Great Lakes (WBFO Radio)

This audio clip is from a discussion on WBFO radio. Based in Buffalo NY, WBFO 88.3 FM is a part of the National Public Radio digital network. If you don't see the player above, it's because you're using a non-Flash device (eg, iPhone or iPad). You can download the mp3 file by clicking here (mp3). It may take a few minutes to download, so please be patient.

April 28, 2017 - By Angelica A. Morrison

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day takes place Saturday, April 29, and New York Sea Grant is urging residents of the Great Lakes region to participate to help protect fish and wildlife. The organization says fish downstream from wastewater plants sometimes contain chemicals like estrogen from prescription drugs.

"It goes into our waterways if you flush these chemicals into our waterways they're going to stay in our waterways," said Kathy Bunting-Howarth, associate director for New York Sea Grant.

The event gives residents a chance to take unused pharmaceuticals to collection sites as an alternative to flushing them down the toilet, she said.

A second National Take Back Day is scheduled for Sept. 29.

Bunting-Howarth says that on days when the take back program isn't offered, folks may be able to take unused drugs to a local pharmacy.

When pharmaceuticals are flushed, they enter household septic systems or sewage treatment plants and can make their way into our waterways or even water supply. Follow the diagram to see how. Information courtesy of Stony Brook University (SBU) School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences researcher Dr. Henry Bokuniewicz and SBU graduate student Ruth Coffey. Illustration by Anita Kusick.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, is one of 33 university-based programs under the National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NSGCP engages this network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources. Through its statewide network of integrated services, NYSG has been promoting coastal vitality, environmental sustainability, and citizen awareness about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources since 1971.

New York Sea Grant maintains Great Lakes offices at SUNY Buffalo, the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark and at SUNY Oswego. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University and Stony Brook Manhattan, in the Hudson Valley through Cooperative Extension in Kingston and at Brooklyn College. 

For updates on Sea Grant activities: www.nyseagrant.org has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links. NYSG produces a monthly e-newsletter, "NOAA Sea Grant's Social Media Review," via its blog, www.nyseagrant.org/blog. Our program also offers a free e-list sign up via www.nyseagrant.org/coastlines for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published 1-2 times a year.

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