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Don’t flush meds down toilet

The popular way to get rid of expired medicines: flush them down the toilet.

The environmentally insensitive way to clear out the medicines: also flushing them down the toilet.

The Park City Police Department recently introduced what the police and others describe as a safer way to dispose of medications. Workers have installed a medicine drop box at the police station, 2060 Park Ave., available to people who want to get rid of medications. It is in the lobby.

The police say it is preferred that the medicines be left there. Once they are put in the drop box, the Police Department weighs them and submits a report to the Drug Enforcement Agency. They are then incinerated.

Annette Ellis, a police sergeant who is assisting with the drop box, says the authorities do not want the medications put in the garbage or flushed down the toilet. She says it is better for the environment if they are put in the drop box.

"In this day and age, we’re all trying to become environmentally aware," Ellis says.

The drop box cost between $600 and $700. It is bolted down to the floor at the police station. It began accepting medicines on Dec. 4. The Police Department installed a security camera to monitor the drop box.

Ellis says she expects myriad of medications to be left in the box, including antibiotics and pain pills. The drop box, however, is not for needles or containers of liquid medicine that are opened or unsealed.

The Police Department provides bags for the medications.

Ellis expects the police will empty the drop box at least once each month.

The drop box is similar to one the Summit County Sheriff’s Office provides at its Silver Summit headquarters.

Insa Riepen, the executive director of Recycle Utah, is pleased with the installation at the Police Department, saying she anticipates Parkites will deposit their medications there.

Riepen says water-treatment plans do not rid the water supply of all traces of medications if they are flushed down the toilet. She says putting them in a drop box helps protect drinking water. Doing so also protects elderly people from taking too much medicine and keeps medicines away from children, she says.

"We do not want people to flush it down the toilet or send it down the sink," Riepen says, adding, "This is important, folks, this is very important."

Recycle Utah in recent years has held events to collect medicines to be disposed of properly, with Riepen saying they have been "extremely successful." In October, she says, the organization collected enough medicine to fill approximately 15 five-gallon buckets. The medicine collected in a May event filled 10 of the buckets, she says.

She mentions people sometimes are prescribed too many pills after a surgery. The leftover, Riepen says, should be put in the drop box.

Riepen hopes the Summit County Health Department also installs a drop box someday.

Anne Edwards, a pharmacist at The Market at Park City, calls the drop box an "excellent idea." She says she will encourage people to take their expired medications there.

Before she was a pharmacist, Edwards says, she did not realize the dangers o flushing medicines down the toilet. She says low levels of medicines through the drinking water or sewers could affect people and wildlife.

"It never occurred to me that throwing a half a bottle of medication in the trash could end in an inappropriate place," she says. "They don’t understand how trash is processed and that fact that the drugs can reach water supplies."

The Market does not accept medicines for disposal. Edwards says the pharmacy does not have an incinerator to destroy medicines.

Edwards acknowledges water-treatment plants cleanse many of the medicines from drinking water. Still she worries about other medications making it through the filtration system, including antibiotics and hormones.

She says many ingredients contained in medications hold strong chemical bonds. They are not always broken down. If they are flushed down a toilet, she says, the bonds might stay intact.

"The chemical bonds are very strong," she says. "They won’t necessarily dissolve safely in water."

Drop off here

Instructions for using the medicine drop box, provided by the Police Department:

Put the medicine in a bag and seal the bag.

Do not drop off opened liquids. Unopened or sealed containers of liquid are accepted.

Do not put needles or other sharp objects in the drop box.

Put the sealed bag in the door of the drop box and close the door. Reopen the door to make sure the bag went into the container.

For more information, call the Police Department, 615-5500.


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