Monday, April 16, 2012

Episode 107 (4-16-12): Disposing of Medications Properly

Please see below (after the transcript and show notes) for links to news and upcoming events.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of April 16, 2012.

This week we feature another mystery sound.  Have a listen for about 20 seconds, and see if you can guess what’s going on in this series of sounds.  And here’s a hint: If nearby fish heard this coming from your household, they would thank you, if they could.


That’s the sound of unused and expired medications being disposed of without flushing them down a drain.  Proper disposal of medications helps prevent unintended drug use and keeps pharmaceuticals from reaching waterways.  If medications are flushed down a toilet or drain, typically the chemicals in the medications will remain after wastewater treatment and be discharged to waterways, where they can potentially harm aquatic life.  So here are the disposal steps recommended for most medications:  1. Put medication into a sealable plastic bag.  2. Add cat litter, coffee grounds, or other material that will deter pets and children from eating the contents.  3. Seal the bag and put it in the trash.  And 4. Remove all identifying personal information from prescription containers.  Note that the federal Food and Drug Administration recommends flushing for certain medicines that pose a particular risk of improper use; a list of those medications is available at that agency’s Web site.  And you should check to see whether any local ordinances prohibit disposal of medications in household trash in your area.

Now, finally, here’s another option: on April 28, 2012, law enforcement agencies statewide will conduct the annual National Prescription Drug Take-back Day, when officers will be available at designated locations to accept medications for proper disposal. To see if a take-back day is happening near you,  call your local police or sheriff’s department or visit the U.S. Justice Department’s “National Take Back Initiative” Web site, where you can search for the take-back location nearest you.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.

Acknowledgements:  Thanks to Patrick Fay for assistance in producing the week’s sounds, which were previously used in Virginia Water Radio episode 61 (week of 4/11/11).

Sources:  Information for this segment from the American Pharmacists Association’s “Smart Disposal” Web site; the U.S. EPA’s “Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products” Web site; and the Food and Drug Administration’s “Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know” Web site.  The U.S. Department of Justice’s “National Take Back Initiative” Web site is at

Update 1/24/14:
Note that while federal Food and Drug Administration recommends flushing for certain medicines that pose a particular risk of improper use, as stated in this episode's script, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality's Office of Water Permits does not recommend flushing any medications.  If you have questions about the DEQ’s recommendations for the substances that FDA recommends being disposed of by flushing,  please contact Ms. Deborah DeBiasi at (804) 698-4028 or, or visit the DEQ Web page at

Recent Virginia Water News
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Water Meetings and Other Events
            For events related to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Quick Guide to Virginia Water–related Conferences, Workshops, and Other Events, online at  The site includes a list of Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings occurring in the coming week.