Prescription drugs can be flushed
In the Feb. 28 Kokua Line, which said private individuals could not donate unused prescription drugs, the headline said, "Toss unused prescription medications." Many people do not understand the dangers of throwing away medication or flushing it down the toilet. Many communities on the mainland are finding high levels of medication flushed down toilets for years in drinking water. Can you let people know about the dangers of throwing away medications without thought to the environment?
Answer: We did say people "are advised to properly dispose of the medications so they cannot be used by anyone else," but did not specify what that entails.
For now, state and city officials say proper disposal includes either flushing the drugs down the toilet or throwing them out in the trash, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has no regulations against such methods of disposal.
However, it is a good idea to first check if a pharmacy will take back unused drugs for disposal.
Kaiser Permanente, for one, will accept unused drugs from its members for disposal. Just return them to any Kaiser pharmacy, said spokeswoman Lynn Kenton.
There have been concerns expressed in some mainland communities about prescription medications, especially involving hormonal drugs or "blocking devices," getting into water or soil or affecting animals, said Steven Chang, chief of the state Department of Health's Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch.
But a lot of the concerns are "anecdotal at this time," he said. Just to make sure, his office checked with the city and was told "it is acceptable to flush (the drugs) down the toilet or to place it in the trash."
City officials said their sewage treatment system is able to handle the flushed waste, Chang said, while most homeowner trash is incinerated at the city's HPOWER plant.
He noted that large commercial entities are required to return unused or outdated drugs to the manufacturer or pharmaceutical companies. Some communities do have agencies that will accept unused drugs for group disposal, but there is no such program here.
If there was such a "take-back program, that obviously would be the better solution," said Dean Higuchi, press officer for the EPA's Region 9, "but there is no regulatory requirement that ... anyone has to take back prescription drugs."
Bottom line: Disposing of the drugs as household waste is allowed, he said.
To an angel named Sue who lives in Mililani. She helped me when my car stalled at the traffic light coming off the H-2 Freeway in Mililani Friday morning, March 10. It was pouring rain. She let me use her cell phone to make two calls to my cousin. When I couldn't reach him, she drove me to his house to wake him up and get him to help me to move my car out of the way. Thank God there are people out there like her. -- Alvin
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