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The Issue
Prescription drugs such as antibiotics, antidepressants, and hormones and over-the-counter medications, antiseptics, and veterinary medicines are all considered to be pharmaceuticals. During the past decade there have been growing questions about potential adverse effects from the environmental release of pharmaceutically active compounds. Small concentrations of hormones, antidepressants, antibiotics, and chemicals from personal care products have been founds in various waterways nationwide, including the San Francisco Bay, according to reports from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the San Francisco Bay Estuary Institute.

The major concerns to date regarding the presence of medications in surface water bodies have been interference with growth and reproduction in aquatic organisms such as fish and frogs, and increased bacterial resistance to antibiotics in humans.

When unused or expired medicines are disposed of down the drain or flushed down the toilet, they flow through the sanitary sewer system to the San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility (Facility). The Facility was not designed to remove all pharmaceutical compounds, so trace amounts may pass through the Facility and be released into the Bay.

What You Can Do
Do not flush unused or expired medications down the toilet, place down the drain, or put in the garbage! Look for take-back events and permanent drop-off locattions near you by visiting Baywise or Santa Clara County Household Hazardous Waste.