By some measures, spring arrived on Monday. Many of us adhere to spring cleaning rituals, and if that includes you, I have a tip that can help protect groundwater quality on Cape Cod. Rather than dispose of unused or old medications down the drain or in the toilet, take them for proper disposal at your local police station. Every police department on Cape Cod has a secure drop box into which unwanted medications can be placed for proper disposal. Established initially to provide a safe place for opioid disposal, these drop locations are secure, free, and available 24 hours a day for the night owls among us, and there are no questions asked.
It bears repeating that everything we flush down the toilet or pour down the drain ends up in our groundwater. Once in groundwater, contaminants travel to a water-supply well, a river, a pond, or saltwater environment. Our groundwater feeds all other water resources on Cape Cod, and what we put in the ground shows up in our water. It stands to logic that the first and best thing we can do to protect groundwater is to avoid introducing contaminants to the environment in the first place. We already have a measurable amount of caffeine, statins, and antidepressants in groundwater as a result of consumption and excretion through human waste deposited in septic systems. We don’t need to add more medicines to the groundwater when such an easy option exists to dispose of medications in an environmentally responsible manner. The old guidance from VNA or Hospice to dump old medications in the toilet might help keep drugs out of the wrong hands, but it is bad for our environment.
Not a lot is known about the ecological and health implications of low levels of individual medicines in groundwater. Almost nothing is known about the implications of exposure to a mix or combination of low levels of medicinal compounds. Given what we don’t know, it’s wise to minimize the introduction of unused prescriptions to the environment. Take advantage of the service provided by your local police department and dispose of unwanted medications there. A problem avoided is a problem solved.