California working to encourage proper disposal of unused drugs

Hoping to keep streams and groundwater cleaner, the people who run sewage plants around California want to change the way we get rid of old medicines. The toilet is out. The hazardous-waste site is in. Except where it's not.

Then there's the trash.

Advocates hoping to deliver the message "No Drugs Down the Drain" are struggling with exactly where else unwanted medications should go.

"Everybody is trying to do the right thing, and right now our laws just haven't caught up with what the right thing is," said Jen Jackson, the effort's statewide coordinator.

To help people navigate the legal morass, the campaign is coordinating special drop-off events statewide, including two planned for Saturday in Auburn and Roseville. It's also publicizing hazardous-waste sites that routinely accept medications, including four in the Sacramento region.

People are getting increasingly worried about drugs that make their way into America's waterways. An Associated Press investigation this year found traces of prescription and nonprescription medicines in the drinking supply of 41 million Americans.

Many of those drugs make a stop in the human body first, as people take birth control pills, antibiotics or painkillers and then eliminate what their bodies don't use up.

Americans also discard plenty of medicine – one estimate is 10 million pounds a year, Jackson said.

"The piece that we can address right now, in an immediate way, is what people throw away," she said.

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