Monday, March 30, 2009

Expired Medicine Be Gone!

My sister, Amy, did her every year or two bathroom closet declutter/clean up this weekend.

(Oh, how I would love to have a closet in my bathroom to declutter and keep clean. But that's another posting.)

She took out three kitchen-size garbage bags full of old make-up, toiletries and medicines. When you have lean, mean bathroom storage areas such as myself, you are forced to do this task much more frequently lest you be unable to actually get into the bathroom! Our house was built in 1964 and has the "master" bathroom to prove it.

My friend Emily, children's photographer extraordinaire, ( suggested a post on what to do with expired medications. She has one husband, two adorable girls and the same 1964 house we do, so she's interested in keeping that master bathroom as uncluttered as possible.

The Washington Times had a good article last year (excerpted here) about the whys and hows to properly dispose of expired medications, over-the-counter and prescription alike.

Expired medicine around the house can lead to multiple problems including the potential for drug abuse (experimenting teens in the house anyone?), health issues (old meds don't work as well, if at all, as fresh meds) and environmental concerns (water supply and landfill contamination issues).

The FDA recommends cleaning out medicine cabinets at least once a year, checking for expiration dates and throwing away all expired medications. They recommend first taking the medicine out of its original container which can then be thrown away with regular household trash or recycled.

Recently established government guidelines for getting rid of the medicines themselves include mixing the medicine with undesirable substances like coffee grinds or clean cat box litter. Liquid medications can also be mixed with these items, rendering them unusable.

After concocting this lovely mixture, simply seal it in an impermeable, non-descript container like a Ziploc bag or empty can before throwing it away with the household trash. This will keep the medicine from seeping into the environment.

Whatever you do, don't flush medications down the toilet, as I once did! Some medications can actually release chemicals into the sewage system, which then could eventually get back to humans via our drinking water. It's not known how these minute traces of pharmaceuticals might affect us, however, rest assured the EPA is "aggressively pursing research on occurrence and fate and transport of pharmaceuticals in various water sources, possible health effects in humans and aquatic life, and the effectiveness of water treatment technologies."

So, there now. Go clean out your medicine cabinet. While you're at it, toss that hip-in-2002 green eye-shadow and three-year old mascara! Not to mention rusty bobby pins (you just never get around to doing that chic chignon you always imagine will complete your LBD ensemble), that stinky body cleanser you got in the dollar bin at Target and any other items you haven't touched or used in a year.

Ahhh, doesn't that feel better?


Darla said...

Doesn't it make you wonder though? It would be terrible to throw them down the toilet, but fine it swallow them?

Darla said...

Ah if only I could spell!

Lauri Mennel said...

Darla, I can always count on you to give me a moment or two of serious head scratching!

Amy said...

I tell you, cleaning out the old makeup, toiletries and expired medicine gives me such a great sense of satisfaction! I always think, hmmm, maybe some day I'll like that lotion/shampoo/lipstick, but alas that day never comes...