A common way of getting rid of unused drugs is to dispose of them into the sewage system. This can cause a number of problems.


Unintended consequences after disposing of a drug into sewage:

(1) release into the environment

(2) promotion of antibiotic resistance

(3) interference with sewage digestion


Some cities have 2 types of sewage - one for human waste and one for rain runoff. A sewer used for rain runoff may be untreated or minimally treated. Disposal of a drug into a sewer meant for rain runoff is more likely to result in drugs entering the environment.


Compounds that may be hazardous when released into the sewage system:

(1) antibiotics

(2) disinfectants

(3) chemotherapeutic agents

(4) radiographic contrast agents

(5) anesthetics


Sources that could generate a large amount of pharmaceuticals into the sewage system:

(1) pharmaceutical companies

(2) pharmacies

(3) hospitals


Problems that can occur in the home:

(1) obstruction of a sewage pipe by a drug mass (similar to a pharmacobezoar) when a large number of pills are disposed of

(2) disposal into a septic tank


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