Drug Take-Back Bill Will Help Fish

Pharmaceuticals may help people, but they can also pollute our waterways and have harmful effects on fish

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Pharmaceuticals may help a lot of people, but they can also pollute our waterways and have harmful effects on fish. Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia and Congressman Jay Inslee of Washington have introduced a bill to support a drug take-back program, which hopes to reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals reaching our streams and rivers.

Current law and DEA enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act make it difficult to turn over unused medications for safe disposal. When unused drugs are flushed down the toilet or thrown into the trash they often find their way into our waterways and the environment. "Recent studies have determined that improper disposal of unused prescription drugs, such as birth control pills and estrogen, are the culprits (for fish)," stated Scott Sewell, Maryland BASS Federation Nation Conservation Director.

For an example, one need look no farther than the Washington, D.C. area itself. Congressman Moran states, "We now know that flushing unused medications down the toilet doesn't get rid of them. These unused pharmaceuticals are polluting our rivers and streams and affecting our flora and fauna. In the Potomac River which borders my Northern Virginia district, bass with both male and female reproductive organs have become a common occurrence".

In order to keep harmful chemicals out of the waterways, it is important to educate the public on the risks and repercussions of treating waters as sewers. People can make changes at home by stopping the flushing of pharmaceuticals down the toilet. In addition, there needs to be legislation to help prevent the improper disposal of unused drugs, which is exactly what is intended by this bill. This legislation will provide end-users with safe, legal alternatives for the disposal of their pharmaceuticals.

The drug take-back bill would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to allow end-users to safely dispose of all unused and unneeded medications through a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)-approved program. "Flushed medications often seep into the water supply, which is unacceptable for people and the environment," said Congressman Inslee. "This legislation establishes a simple, safe and effective way to dispose of old meds by allowing states to adopt take-back programs suited to the needs of their communities."

Congressman Moran went on to say, "Scientists are only beginning to understand the effect these chemical compounds have on nature. It's not a stretch to imagine that humans are also susceptible to overexposure from chemicals in our soil and water. For the sake of our environment, we need safe, convenient, cost-effective methods for drug disposal. Our legislation empowers local governments to devise drug take-back programs tailored to their communities. It's in the interest of wildlife, our lakes, rivers, streams and oceans to see it becomes law."

Sewell commented, "I'm pleased to see that Congress is finally taking action. This is the kind of thing that we will need all of our Federation Nation members to contact their congressional members for support."

BASS Conservation Director Chris Horton said, "This is the first real attempt we've seen to address a very troubling trend in our nation's rivers. More will be needed, but this bill is a good start."