Due to new assessment techniques, pharmaceuticals are now being detected in water and wastewater by scientists worldwide. There are over 20,000 prescription drug products approved for market today, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some of these pharmaceuticals found in water have raised concerns about the potential risks they pose to both humans and our ecosystems.

Pharmaceuticals enter wastewater treatment plants through either human excretion or disposal of unused medications to the sewer. The District’s Water Reclamation Facility is a biological treatment facility and is not designed to remove these chemicals. Regardless of the level of treatment, most conventional wastewater treatment cannot effectively eliminate pharmaceutical compounds and are essentially released into the environment.

What can you do as a consumer?

  • Dispose of unused or unwanted medications at take back sites
  • Participate in The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day – https://takebackday.dea.gov/
  • Utilize the local law enforcement special disposal days when advertised
  • Do NOT dispose of any medication down the toilet, street drains, waterbodies, or in the trash
  • Purchase drugs in small amounts, limiting expired Medications
  • Ask for medications with low environmental impact
  • Encourage your health provider to take back unused and expired drugs

Pharmaceutical pollution urban water cycle

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