Consumers in the USA throw away an estimated $200 million of unused pharmaceutical product each year. These products are disposed of in different ways. Some of the methods of disposal cause problems to the environment, such as discarding in ways which lead to chemicals seeping into waterways, whereas other ways lead to risks for both environmental and human health.
Some new research has examined the most cost effective and environmentally secure way for disposing of unwanted drug products. The research, undertaken by the University of Michigan
, concluded that the optimal solution was to discard unused pills into the garbage.
The research study evaluated
three alternative disposal methods. These were: returning drugs to a pharmacy for incineration; flushing the drugs down a sink or toilet; or throwing them away.
The benefit of incineration is that renders drugs inactive and therefore safe. However, the cost of doing this on a large scale would cost billions of dollars. The second solution of flushing the drugs down the toilet results in the highest environmental exposure
to the chemicals. The middle way was landfill. Here the research suggested that leaching from a landfill was not a significant source of pollution.
So, the conclusion of the report was that trash disposal was the simplest and most economical strategy. The report was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology