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TIPS: Why you shouldn’t flush your meds (and what to do instead)

What do you do with your outdated or unused medications at home? Many residents don’t know what to do with them, but here’s what you can do to protect your family and the environment.


Don’t flush them.

Some adults remember the days when it was common to flush old pharmaceuticals down the toilet. That way, they were gone without the risk posed by just disposing of them in the trash. But flushing your meds poses other problems.

Flushing pills down the toilet can be a water quality issue because wastewater treatment plants are not equipped to remove pharmaceuticals from the wastewater. Those medications could affect the environment and endanger public health.

What to do for safe disposal

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration regularly offers its National Take Back Initiatives, where secure collection events round-up your unused medications to be incinerated safely. But you don’t need to wait until then: Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District offers year-round recommendations, including the County Sheriff’s RX Drug Drop Box Program at local law enforcement agencies.

Ongoing research and education

While researchers have no definitive evidence of human health risk directly related to flushing unused medications, the Sewer District has found education can help reduce this source of potential contamination. Especially since pharmaceuticals in wastewater is not a new issue. We have researched and monitored trends dating back to the mid-1990s and have been involved in state and national dialogue ever since. We will continue to be active in all pharmaceutical wastewater-treatment research and seek the best solutions to address any health and environmental concerns.