Mention the initials "DEA" and you'll probably conjure images of drug raids, bulletproof vests and bags of white powder - or at least that's what TV shows and movies have led us to believe. In fact, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration does much more than seek out drug lords, including its efforts to preserve water quality and protect drinking water sources over the past six years.
In 2010, DEA began hosting National Drug Take Back Days to encourage people to turn in their unused prescription drugs for safe disposal, rather than flushing them down the toilet. On the latest Drug Take Back Day last month, approximately 447 tons of drugs were collected at 5,400 collection sites across the U.S., beating the agency's previous record of 390 tons collected last fall.
Prescription drugs are included under the umbrella of emerging contaminants. Improper disposal - whether they are flushed down the toilet, rinsed down the sink or thrown in the trash - can result in the drugs reaching water supplies, not only affecting aquatic animal and plant life, but also entering water supplies and potentially affecting human health. Levels of hormones and other prescription medications have been found in varying levels in water sources across the country, and water and wastewater treatment plants often are not equipped to handle them.
I often have written about conserving water as a key way to protect the water supply, but doing our part to ensure contaminants stay out of the water supply is just as important. Spread the word about proper prescription and over-the-counter drug disposal to your customers. Every ounce of medication that stays out of our water sources is a step toward healthier water bodies and healther human bodies.