BUFFALO, N.Y. – With trace amounts of pharmaceuticals showing up in the drinking water of major cities, authorities are encouraging consumers around the Great Lakes to drop off leftover and expired medicine at collection centers.
The Environmental Protection Agency has set a goal of collecting 1 million pills and 1 million pounds of electronics during an Earth Day initiative aimed at the more than 30 million people who live around the Great Lakes, which are by far the largest source of fresh drinking water on the planet.
"We're trying to raise public awareness on disposing of pharmaceuticals properly and we've had a very good response from communities on water districts. This is information that needs to get out there," EPA spokeswoman Phillippa Cannon said Tuesday.
The agency is helping pay for more than 70 collection points in eight states that will take old medicine, along with electronic waste like computers, cell phones and televisions from Saturday through April 27. Past collections have focused mainly on electronics.
A five-month inquiry by the AP National Investigative Team disclosed the presence of trace concentrations of such things as antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones in the drinking water of at least 24 major metropolitan areas.
The presence of drugs, mostly the residue of medications taken by people, excreted and flushed down the toilet, has raised concerns about the effects on the ecosystem. Studies have shown adverse effects on fish and scientists worry human health could be affected.
Earth Day collection sites are being established in New York, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Electronics will be recycled, while most medication will be incinerated.