Council encourages creation of prescription drug disposal program

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City of Seattle

Councilmember Richard Conlin

Council encourages creation of prescription drug disposal program

SEATTLE – Seattle City Council today adopted a resolution today encouraging the Seattle/King County Board of Health to establish a secure return program for unwanted and expired medicines from households.  The resolution asks that the return program be financed by pharmaceutical manufacturers to cover the cost of collection, transportation and disposal of unwanted medications.

A similar program in British Columbia has been operating for ten years and provides the public locations (often in retail pharmacies or law enforcement offices) to deposit unwanted prescription medication for free secure disposal.  In King County, voluntary medicine take-back programs currently exist, but at insufficient levels to protect public safety.

"It’s important we establish a convenient, safe, secure, and environmentally sound medicine return program," said Councilmember Richard Conlin, Vice-Chair of the King County Board of Health.  "Over half of the 37,000 calls to the Washington Poison Center in 2009 were for young children poisoned by medicines found at home.  There’s a smarter way."

Improperly disposed prescription medications can have negative environmental consequences when they enter the waste stream or sewer lines because wastewater treatment facilities cannot effectively remove or degrade all pharmaceutical compounds. A range of medications show up in the tissues of fish and other aquatic wildlife, which are part of the larger food chain.

The King County Board of Health is currently deliberating whether to create a disposal program.  More information about the King County Board of Health’s proposed secure medicine return program is available here.

[View in Council Newsroom]