By Nico Strydom
Many households have medicine cupboards filled with items which are no longer being used or which have already expired.
However, most people don’t know how to dispose of these medicines safely. Medicines which are no longer being used or which have expired, are often just dumped in the trash can or flushed down the toilet. This medication is considered to be medical waste and harbours a risk for human health and the environment.
When medication is flushed down the toilet, it could end up in the town’s or city’s water supply and when it is dumped in the trash can, scavengers could get hold of if, with fatal results. It could also pollute ground water and end up in rivers and dams.
An overfull medicine cabinet also means there is more medication to which children and other persons might gain access.
The first step to dispose of medication, is to take a look at which medications are still being used and which have not yet expired.
An enclosed leaflet or the packaging might contain instructions on how to dispose of the specific medicine. If there aren’t any instructions, a search online might give the best advice on how to do so.
According to the Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa, currently there are not many safe and easy ways in which to dispose of medicine which is no longer being used or which has expired.
However, chemists countrywide hold an annual national awareness campaign during which people are encouraged to hand in medicine which is no longer being used or has expired at their nearest chemist so that it can be disposed of safely and responsibly.
The awareness campaign is usually held in September, after the winter months, so it offers the perfect opportunity to dispose of medicine which accumulated during the winter and is no longer being used.
The purpose of the awareness campaign is to make people aware of the safe use, storage and disposal of medicine. Although the campaign takes place only once per year, there are many chemists who offer this service the whole year round. So contact your nearest chemist to find out if they offer this service.
SHEQ Management: http://www.sheqmanagement.com/safe-disposal-of-unused-pharmaceuticals/
Be MedWise: http://www.bemedwise.org/medication-safety/drug-storage-and-disposal