CORVALLIS – Oregon Sea Grant Scholars have helped Corvallis police and public works and Allied Waste employees collect more than 550 pounds of old, unused and expired prescription drugs for safe disposal – drugs which otherwise might have wound up in the hands of abusers, or poisoning local waterways.
Student interns and research assistants who work with Sea Grant water quality specialist Sam Chan volunteered for the third National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, Oct. 29, which netted more than 188 tons of unwanted or expired medications at 5,327 collection sites across the country.
The event is sponsored by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, primarily to keep drugs out of the the crime and drug abuse stream.
But the Sea Grant students were interested in different streams: The ones that receive the outflow from local sewage plants, and seepage from local landfills.
According to the Association of Clean Water Agencies in Oregon, a San Francisco study showed that nearly 40 per cent of medications purchased in that city go unused. Many get tossed in the trash or flushed down toilets, making their way into the environment where they pose both environmental and human hazards.
The student interns participated in the Corvallis event to learn about drug take-back programs as part of a Sea Grant needs-assessment that meant to guide future investments in research, outreach and public education. Pharmaceuticals are becoming a growing issue for water quality and ocean health, and are increasingly emphasized as areas of concern by Sea Grant’s parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Sea Grant Extension teamed with Corvallis Public works to inform those who dropped off medications about how proper drug disposal can protect the drinking water supply and the aquatic environment.
“It was great to be able to engage and educate people on why Sea Grant was at the event,” said Jennifer Lam, a Sea Grant professional intern. “People were interested in learning that disposing of their medication properly not only protects their families from accidental poisoning, but also prevents these drugs from affecting fish and other aquatic organisms.”