Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yes, we take requests

We had an inquiry a while back about how to dispose of prescription drugs, specifically prescription opioids. I thought that it would be okay to flush that particular class of drugs, since the biological effect would be trivial if they were highly diluted, and they will biodegrade and not bioaccumulate. For what it's worth, the White House Office of Drug Control Policy agrees with me. They're wrong about everything else, but I suppose we can trust them on this one since it doesn't intersect in any obvious way with their warped ideology.

However, they recommend this only for drugs whose label says to do so, which basically are those which are particularly subject to diversion and abuse, including opioids and amphetamine-like drugs. (Check the link for a list.) They don't say so, but I would strongly emphasize that people should not flush antibiotics or hormones.

Most drugs, ODCP recommends taking out of their original containers, mixing with coffee grounds or kitty litter or some such so nobody is tempted to try them, putting them in a sandwich bag, and throwing them in the trash.

Best of all, however, are community take-back programs where you can drop off your left-over pharmaceuticals for proper disposal (ultimately incineration, I should think). But, they aren't available to most people. We really need to consider comprehensive "take back" centers for several classes of items, including used electronic equipment, compact flourescent light bulbs, and hazardous chemicals such as pesticides, solvents and finishing materials. Many of these items contain recyclable metals, including mercury which is hazardous, or chemicals that can be safely neutralized. It's good to keep these out of landfills and to recyle where possible.

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