EPA urges Great Lakes residents to drop off old meds
U.S. Water News Online
BUFFALO, N.Y. — With trace amounts of pharmaceuticals showing up in the drinking water of major cities, consumers around the Great Lakes are being encouraged to drop off leftover and expired medicine at collection centers to keep from adding to the problem.
The Environmental Protection Agency has set a goal of collecting 1 million pills during an Earth Day initiative aimed at the more than 30 million people who live around the Great Lakes, which are by far the largest source of fresh drinking water on the planet.
The EPA is helping to pay for more than 70 collection points in eight states that will take old medicine, along with electronic waste like computers, cell phones and televisions. Past collections have focused mainly on electronics.
"The goal is to collect 1 million pounds of electronic waste and 1 million pills," EPA spokeswoman Phillippa Cannon said.
A 5-month-long inquiry by the AP National Investigative Team disclosed the presence of trace concentrations of such things as antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones in the drinking water of at least 24 major metropolitan areas.
The presence of drugs, mostly the residue of medications taken by people, excreted and flushed down the toilet, has raised concerns about the effects on the ecosystem. Studies have shown adverse effects on fish and scientists worry human health could be affected.
"We're trying to raise public awareness on disposing of pharmaceuticals properly and we've had a very good response from communities on water districts. This is information that needs to get out there," Cannon said.
The Great Lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario _ contain roughly 18 percent of the world supply of fresh, surface water, according to the EPA.
Earth Day collection sites are being established in New York, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Electronics will be recycled, while most medication will be incinerated.
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