Yachts today are mandated by maritime regulations to properly manage and dispose of their hazardous waste. Each country they visit will also have specific rules in place as to how and where hazardous products can be discharged.
While we immediately think of black and gray water, diesel and gasoline, engine oil, solvents, detergents, paint and the myriad of other products that would be harmful to our environment; how many of you consider the medicines in your medical kit, cabinets and drawers? The presence of so many prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen and aspirin, in so much of our drinking water is alarming to scientists of the long-term consequences to human health.
Drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of many major cities in the USA. Canada, in a study of 20 water treatment plants, found nine different drugs in water samples. Japanese health officials called for health impact studies after detecting prescription drugs in drinking water at seven different sites.
Never dispose of medicines in the sink or toilet, even if the label indicates to do so.
The disposal of unwanted or expired medicines should be undertaken according to the regulations that apply in the country or state in which the disposal is being undertaken. Some of the medicines in your medical kits may actually be classified as hazardous waste and would be subject to special disposal requirements, again this may vary from country to country, region to region.
It is also important to keep medicines out of the hands of children, drug abusers and animals. Improper disposal can lead to expired medicines being relabeled and sold in black markets.
Through-out Europe there are take back rules for unused pharmaceuticals carried out by pharmacies. Some even provide tamper-proof receptacles where they are held to be later destroyed.
In the USA, there is no set rule for medicine disposal. Pharmacies will not always accept expired or unused medicines. The US Drug Enforcement Agency has a list of authorized collectors around the country. If this is unavailable in your area, the US Food & Drug Administration recommends that medicines be separated from their packaging, mix pills/liquids with cat litter, coffee grounds or sand and dispose into the trash.
Communities often inform citizens on take back or drop off programs via websites, print and television. They will offer disposal site locations and specific days. Do not include hazardous waste items such as sharp needles, blades or items contaminated with body fluids. These require specialized containers and careful handling.
Lastly, do not share unused or expired medicines with others. This could result in harm or death from an improper medicine, improper dose, allergic reaction, interaction with other medicines.
It is up to us all to protect our citizens and our precious environment from harm.
Rebecca Castellano, RN
Americas and Caribbean Sales Manager
Medical Support Offshore, Ltd