New Jersey law banning medicine dumping seems like a no-brainer

Governor signs legislation against discarding prescription drugs into sewer or septic systems

News media are reporting that New Jersey Governor Chris on Nov. 19 signed a bill that bans health care facilities from dumping unused prescription medications into public sewers or into septic systems.

The bill had bipartisan support and was sponsored by sponsored by Assembly member Holly Schepisi. The New Jersey Newsroom website quotes Schepisi as saying, “The safest way to make sure children aren’t at risk from pharmaceuticals in our drinking water is to stop dumping medicine into the water supply. Medical facilities can lead the way by disposing unused drugs.

“Prescription medicines serve a specific purpose and do not belong in our drinking water,” Schepisi said. “I thank Governor for signing this bipartisan legislation to ensure that our drinking water is as close as possible to what nature intended: two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen.”

The law follows an Associated Press report in 2008 that found traces of drugs in drinking water from 24 large metro areas where 41 million people live.

The law requires health care institutions to submit a plan within 120 days to the state Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Environmental Protection for disposal of unused prescription drugs. The plan must describe in detail how the institution will properly dispose of any such medications. First violations are punishable by fines up to $1,000 and subsequent violations by fines up to $2,500.

This looks like a sensible law; most likely the vast majority of hospitals and other care institutions already dispose of medicines safely. There has been ample publicity about concerns over the effects of pharmaceuticals in drinking water. A logical next step is what to do to make sure the rest of us do what we should with unused drugs.

Many communities have drug drop-off programs, but many do not. It would be great to see everyone in the nation have access to a dropoff program so that these medications are safely destroyed and do not end up in our drinking water.


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