Lorain, OH Ohio Sea Grant partnered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on the federal agency’s national prescription drug takeback day on October 29 and people in Lorain County safely discarded 1,311 pounds of unwanted medication. Thanks to funding from a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) project, representatives from Ohio, Illinois-Indiana, New York, and Pennsylvania Sea Grant programs are not only hosting collections events like the one in Lorain County, but are also spreading the word about the problems caused by flushing medicine down the drain.
Water treatment plants are the only barrier between our drains and the environment, but they don’t have the technology to remove these dangerous chemicals from wastewater. Instead, flushing allows pharmaceuticals to enter streams and lakes and to eventually reach our drinking water.
Since beginning the GLRI project in October 2010, the partner Sea Grant programs have collected and destroyed 1,340,000 pills and reached 615,000 people with educational material, on pace to leapfrog their goals of one million pills and one million people.
"Until people realize there is a problem, they won’t do anything to fix it," says Marti Martz, Pennsylvania Sea Grant Coastal Outreach Specialist. "We’re trying to address both issues by educating people about the risks and by providing ways for people to safely dispose of their medicine."
In addition to holding collection events, the Sea Grant partners are working with several groups to teach people about the issue and make them advocates. Pennsylvania Sea Grant spread medicine disposal information to a group of students who focused on starting medicine take-back programs at pharmacies. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant created curriculum materials for educators to teach students how to properly dispose of prescription medicine.
Because pharmaceutical chemicals impact fish physiology and behavior, Great Lakes anglers have an interest in the topic. Ohio Sea Grant Extension Specialist Dave Kelch has worked at several fishing tournaments and boat shows to distribute information about how to dispose of medicine and the dangers of flushing it down the drain.
"By spreading awareness about the problem, we are equipping new advocates, and that increases our effectiveness," Martz says. "There’s a lot more education and outreach to be done, but the good news is that it resonates with everyone. It’s an issue that affects everyone, and everyone can help solve it."
Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant program is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 32 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For information on Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab, visit ohioseagrant.osu.edu.
To learn more about this Sea Grant project, visit ohioseagrant.osu.edu/_documents/twineline/v33i3.pdf#page=6
Dave Kelch, Extension Specialist, Ohio Sea Grant, 440.326.5858, firstname.lastname@example.org .
Marti Martz, Coastal Outreach Specialist, Pennsylvania Sea Grant, 814.217.9015, email@example.com .