Actually, when we throw away the medicine, we drink it with water afterwards. Let’s check how dangerous household medical waste is and what to do with it. We thank Zaborona for this review.
Now some Western countries are developing special programs for the collection of medical waste. The editor of the Zaborona, Hanna Belovolchenko, together with experts, explained why the household medical waste is dangerous for and what is being done with overdue medicines in the world.
From a first aid kit to a glass of water and a table
What is household medical waste? This is expired medicines, used syringes, the remains of ampoules etc.
In 1999 and 2000, the US Geological Survey conducted water samples from 30 states. The researchers found that 80% of the samples had residues of one or more types of drugs: antibiotics, antidepressants, painkillers, and so on. For the most part, wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals. And if they do work, then the percentage of drugs increases in the sludge, which is partially used for irrigation. Therefore, drug residues still enter the human body in another way.
What the world experience offers
There’s no clear policy on the disposal of household medical waste in the world. For example, France, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium, and a number of other countries have laws that require pharmacies to collect household medical waste from the people. But in Ireland, Albania or the Czech Republic, they are collected on the principle: if you wish – you give, if you don’t wish – flush medical waste down the toilet.
In France, the population annually produces 360 tons of medical waste. The country’s legislation has required pharmacies and medical laboratories to collect household medical waste free of charge since 2011. However, people cannot bring the remnants of the conditional “paracetamol” and simply throw it away. All medical waste must be in appropriate containers. For example, in Nice, three tons of medical waste is collected annually from the population. To do this, the city has established more than 100 reception points.
In the United States, expired drugs and vitamins can also be delivered to special reception points – Drug Take Back Boxes. Until 2010, household medical waste was collected by law enforcement agencies in the United States. Now hospitals, pharmacies and drug manufacturers can do it. It finances the collection and disposal of pharmaceutical waste, mostly from the Drug Enforcement Administration. But in Massachusetts, for example, a law has been passed that obliges the polluter, a pharmaceutical company, to pay.
Needles or other acute medical waste are collected in the United States as parcels. It works like this: a person orders a container for sharp objects, fills it, and then puts it in a prepaid box for transportation. The company picks up this parcel when it is convenient for the person. Can once a week, once a month or something.
However, Israeli law does not oblige its citizens to dispose of medical waste in special collection points. Only 14% of Israelis do so. However, back in 2001, the Ministry of Health recommended that pharmacies install special containers for the collection of pharmaceutical waste. And in 2006, one of the local pharmacies, together with the Ministry of Health, initiated a campaign to collect household medical waste. Everyone who took unused medicine was given a package of vitamin C.
What to do with a home medicine cabinet today?
First of all, you should regularly check your home medicine cabinet and check for overdue medications. They are dangerous to health.
Overdue or excess medication should not be flushed down the toilet or sink. If your city does not have a household pharmaceutical waste collection point, it is better to throw everything in the trash. However, before doing so, the medicine should be removed from the package, crushed and mixed with other wastes, such as animal toilet filler, coffee grounds or earth. Medicines will harm the environment, but at least they will not be eaten by an animal, will not be able to take a person who for one reason or another is forced to eat waste.
It is not recommended to throw out syringes just like that. It is better to put them at least in a box so that the people who will collect garbage or sort it will not be injured.