Sea Grant, veterinarians join forces to raise awareness on medicine disposal
Dec. 1, 2011
Contact: Linda Joy, 301-734-1165
Parents take great care to keep medicine out of the reach of children, and now pet owners are being urged keep household medications out of the reach of their four-legged friends and dispose of expired medicines properly.
A new partnership between the NOAA National Sea Grant College Program and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is aiming to prevent pet poisonings and to protect rivers, streams, lakes and groundwater. The Sea Grant/AVMA partnership will encourage pet owners to store and dispose of medications properly.
Following this advice can keep a beloved pet from accidentally ingesting household medications and is a win for the environment too. Studies have identified a wide range of pharmaceutical chemicals in rivers, streams, groundwater, the Great Lakes, and drinking water nationwide. Even at low levels, these compounds can harm aquatic life.
"We are excited about this collaborative effort involving the AVMA and NOAA's National Sea Grant College Program," said Mike Liffmann, Extension Leader for the National Sea Grant Office. "Our Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant colleagues will lead this joint outreach and education effort aimed at ensuring that leftover or unused medications for animals are disposed of properly so they cannot harm people, the animals, or the environment."
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is one of 32 such NOAA-funded programs in coastal and Great Lakes states. This regional program has also developed campaigns to educate people on proper disposal of unused and out-of-date medications. Their efforts have supported community medicine drop-off days and developed a medication disposal toolkit. The success of these efforts demonstrated that targeting pet owners nationwide could further reduce improper disposal of medications.
“By increasing the general public’s awareness of options available to them for the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals and the environmental consequences of improper disposal, it is hoped and anticipated that fewer and fewer medications will be flushed or poured into our waters,” said Kristi Henderson, AVMA assistant director of scientific activities.
According to the Animal Poison Control Center of the ASPCA, human medications topped the list of pet toxins in 2010. Nearly 25 percent of calls they received for pet poisonings resulted from pets consuming human medications. Over-the-counter drugs, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, along with prescription antidepressants and ADHD drugs were among the most common causes of pet poisonings.
Pets, of course, are not the only victims of accidental poisonings. The Journal of Pediatrics recently reported that between the years 2001-2008, more than 430,000 children age five or younger were brought to emergency rooms due to self-ingested medicines.
What’s more, pharmaceuticals are turning up in the environment. “Medicine disposal has become an emerging issue as numerous studies have found pharmaceuticals in drinking water and in lakes and rivers,” said Laura Kammin, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant pollution prevention specialist. “The long term impact is not known, but it’s clear that flushing medicines or throwing them in the trash can contribute to the problem.”
Sea Grant is a nationwide network of 32 university-based programs that work with coastal communities. The National Sea Grant College Program engages this network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training, and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit www.noaa.gov or join us on Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels.
For more information about medicine collection programs, visit http://www.unwantedmeds.org.