Have you cleaned out your medicine cabinet lately? Did you toddler have to take antibiotics for an ear infection this summer? Do you need to test your blood glucose levels because you have diabetes? How do you normally dispose of your unused or expired medication or of your used needles?
Drugs, even in small quantities or in liquid form, should not be thrown in the garbage, down the sink or flushed down the toilet. They will then inevitably end up in the environment or could pose a danger to children or animals that might rummage through your garbage bags.
Earlier this summer, in fact, Environment Canada reported finding low concentrations of about a dozen types of drugs in the waters of the St. Lawrence River, including various over-the-counter antibiotics and analgesics. Some of these products are eliminated through the urine that makes its way to wastewater in the river. Disposing of expired medications by flushing them down the toilet might also contribute to raising drug concentrations in our streams.
Most pharmacies will accept consumers’ unused or expired drugs and dispose of them in a safe manner. All medications, without exception, should be returned to drugstores, including tablets, liquids and syrups, creams and ointments, eye and ear drops, and pumps used for lung conditions. These disposal programs are free for the general public.
Likewise, people should never throw out needles or syringes they have used to administer medication. Drugstores and CLSCs provide specially-designed containers to dispose of them. Once the containers are full, you can return them to the drugstore, where they will be safely discarded, as is the case with medication.
At a time when protecting the environment is a global priority, this is one way every one of us can do our part.