According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Chemical debris present in our environment is sometimes referred by its acronym API which stands for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients. Experts affirm that active pharmaceutical ingredients in our society, are due largely to our lack of understanding and means of disposal present a timely problem that threatens to compromise our community's environment. If it is that critical in our community, it is also a critical issue that should be addressed on a global basis because there should be no political boundaries when it comes to protecting our natural resources in a global community.
We strive to raise public awareness, not exclusively in our community, but throughout society. This is an emerging frontier and an environmental dilemma. Improper drug disposal must be addressed. Our community and society must be educated for proper drug disposal procedures and comply with protocols already recommended by current scientific consensus points. Moreover, we decided to gather the accurate percentages of the present misconceptions in our community by completing a survey.
The community survey conducted by Team DR.MED led us to concluded the following:
- 59% of the individuals in our community flush the unused or expired medications down the commode
- 38% of the population surveyed dispose of their unwanted pharmaceuticals by throwing them in the trash
- Overall only 3% know of another method of safely discarding their medications
Medications have been detected in varying amounts in surface water bodies (streams, lakes, and rivers) across the United States. The most recent extensive study of medications in surface waters was performed by the United States Geological Survey. A network of 25 ground-water and 49 surface-water sources of public drinking water supply in 25 states and Puerto Rico were sampled and analyzed for 124 emerging contaminants. At least one emerging contaminant was detected in 96% of the samples. Examples of medications found included acetaminophen, steroids, hormones, codeine, antibiotics, antimicrobials, birth control, and ibuprofen.
The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality states has stated that the major concerns to date regarding the presence of medications in surface water bodies are increased bacterial resistance to antibiotics and interference with growth and reproduction in aquatic organisms such as fish and frogs. Aquatic organisms are sensitive to low levels of exposure and are particularly vulnerable when exposure occurs during developmentally sensitive times such as before birth and during juvenile stages of growth. Effects of exposure can include a gender ratio imbalance, intersex conditions (the presence of both male and female reproductive organs within an individual organism); poor egg hatching success; decreased fertility and growth; and altered behavior (e.g. lethargy and disorientation). If these anomalies occur in such indicator species at this point in time, it is only a matter of time before their profound impact will affect the human population. Some scientists claim this is already occurring.
This is a complex issue and the level of risk to humans and the environment is still being determined. However, the Texas Pharmacy Association is firm that there are tens of thousands of pharmaceutical products on the market with more being developed each year. It is not definitively known which particular compounds or mixtures of these are a problems or what the long-term risks are. However, research is ongoing and, in the meantime, it is prudent to reduce the incidence of improper disposal of waste medications in order to minimize the potential negative and irreversible impacts on the environment. We should implement universal precaution in light of the fact that we really do not yet understand the potential devastation.