Seeing Our Way To The Future
21st century holistic solutions



USGS biologist collecting samples
Photo courtesy of USGS/
Biologist collecting samples

Posted 4/24/09 by Yasha Husain

The EPA has issued the first list of pesticides to be tested to see if they are endocrine disruptors. The list of 67 pesticides was decided based on the chemical's exposure. Those selected have a "high potential for human exposure through food and water, residential activities, and agricultural pesticides applications."

Read the EPA's press release from April 15, and view the list of endocrine disruptors to be tested via EPA's Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program page.


For more on drug take-back initiatives, including information about how to
set up a local program,
go to:

Northeast Recycling Council


Building an Oregon Drug Take-Back Program


Article - Environment

In NYS, Why Not Safe Disposal of Unused Prescription Drugs?
By Yasha Husain
First appeared in The Sunday Gazette (Schenectady, NY)
August 5th, 2007

In the past few years, across the country, there's been a growing interest in take-back medicine programs that provide communities with designated drop-off locations for the safe disposal of unused pharmaceuticals.

The NYS DEC, a proponent of the programs, declares that they're important because they help to 'remove medicines from homes so they can't be abused, and prevent chemicals from being disposed down the drain and into our waterways'.

In our neck of the woods, the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc. (NERC), with support from the EPA, the USDA, and the Community Pharmacy Foundation, has taken the lead in developing take-back medicine programs. NERC has been instrumental in carrying out several pilot collections in CT, NH, VT, Mass., and ME, helping to usher in a new age of environmental responsibility.

Continuing to push the envelope, NERC reaches out to states that have yet to pass regulations that make it possible for the programs to exist.

In NYS, the DOH, Board of Pharmacy and law enforcement officials must all approve the implementation of such programs, and the DEC is required to provide additional oversight.

According to NERC Executive Director, Lynn Rubinstein, the NY DOH has expressed interest in take-back medicine programs, and 'has indicated conceptual support'. But she said that as of last year they still had very specific concerns under their regulatory authority that they, at the time, had not been able to resolve.

Site restrictions, legal requirements, and social concerns, are all at issue when seeking to approve take-back medicine programs, Rubinstein said. The DOH is presented with such obstacles when it reviews its regulations.

In August of last year, however, the NYS Board of Pharmacy gave its permission to begin instituting programs in NY State when its executive secretary, Lawrence H. Mokhiber, signed a resolution drafted by NERC that's similar to resolutions that have been signed in other states.

Getting take-back medicine programs up and running had a lot to do with the 1999-2000 watershed study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) that tested for the presence of wastewater organic compounds, also known as emerging contaminants, in 139 streams in 30 states. Emerging contaminants, including prescription and nonprescription drugs, and hormones and steroids, were found in 80% of the samples collected.

A 2006 report by Dr. Kim Winton of the USGS goes a long way in outlining how these emerging contaminants adversely affect the physiology of wildlife, as well as humans. Winton wrote that 'estrogenic compounds bioaccumulate and mixtures of the compounds have additive effects'. For example, 'Zeranol (a growth promoter for beef) and estradiol 17-b have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer and autoimmune diseases in humans'.

She also included that 'increased uptake of estrogenic compounds can cause decreases in fertility, presence of both male and female hormones and reproductive organs in fish, amphibians, and rodents; and physical malformations'.

In March of this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the American Pharmacists Association launched "SMARxT DisPOSAL," a public information campaign about the potential dangers of pharmaceuticals that are flushed down toilets and into sewer systems.

As flushing pills down toilets is becoming increasingly passé, since human excretions contribute to the problem, the amount and kinds of drugs being administered is in question, too. The Executive Director for Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E), Laura Brannen, was recently quoted in E Magazine, saying, "We must address the source —using less and making what we do use as environmentally preferable as possible." Health care professionals have begun promoting 'green chemistry' by encouraging drug companies to develop drugs that will break down more quickly.

Take-back medicine programs are but one step in the right direction.

Counties interested in implementing programs have a couple of different options. They can, in conjunction with Household Hazardous Waste Days, meet regulations for collecting unwanted drugs on the same days that are set aside for the collection of hazardous household materials. Or, they can seek permission to initiate a program that is ongoing, by which unused medicines can be dropped off at police departments, or at other collection sites, throughout the year.

Law enforcement will need to be present whenever controlled substances, which include prescription drugs, are collected, and, it's highly recommended that, on designated collection days, there be a pharmacist on hand, too, since he or she will be knowledgeable about the medicines being returned.

For the pilot program in South Portland, ME, in February 2005, CVS/pharmacy was the host of the one-day event. The Maine DEP and South Portland Police Department were involved too. It was the nation's first take-back drug program in a retail pharmacy setting, and it brought in 50 gallons of medicines that were later to be incinerated.

The irony surrounding this program, and others like it, is that pharmacists taking part can only collect controlled substances when law enforcement officials are present. It's illegal for them to collect the same drugs they regularly give out, at the pharmacies where they work, on days that aren't designated collection days. While the practice is illegal in the United States, many other countries allow pharmacists to take back pharmaceuticals, including Australia, where the rate of drugs being returned for proper disposal is remarkably higher.

On the federal level, the Drug Enforcement Agency is involved. Rubinstein says the "DEA is looking to revise regulations for consumer take-back programs, so they're more flexible." The agency has been hearing reports from Washington State, and particularly from Clark County, WA, about the programs administered there. Standout programs may serve as test beds for the nation.

Meanwhile, in NY, several counties and cities interested in starting programs await answers. They're unable to take action until guidance and permission is handed down by the DOH.

For a healthier ecosystem, and to protect human life, and other life forms, take-back medicine programs ought to be implemented statewide, and nationwide, as soon as is feasible.

Several weeks ago I contacted the DOH with questions for the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement about the specific concerns they have related to the regulatory process, but I have yet to receive an official response.

Pressure should be put on the DOH to find ways around any existing regulatory restraints.








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