Flushing old medications down the toilet, a step long advised by consumer safety groups as a means of keeping dangerous drugs away from children and pets, is no longer recommended by government agencies and private groups.

There is a growing concern that drugs in waterways could pose hazards to fish, plants and possibly humans.

While there is no proven cause-and-effect relationship between drug residues and health or environmental harm, common sense and troubling indications, such as the appearance of hermaphroditic fish in some rivers, make keeping water drug-free a sensible precaution.

Recent guidelines issued in February by the EPA and other government agencies encourage the following steps:

    * Throw most drugs in the trash after crushing them or dissolving them in water, mixing them with kitty litter, coffee grounds or other unappealing materials, and placing the mixture in a sealed plastic bag.
    * Remove and destroy any prescription labels before throwing away the containers.
    * In some states, pharmacies can take back medications. When in doubt, you should ask your pharmacist for advice.

USA Today April 23, 2007

Dr. Mercola’s Comment:

You may recall a story I posted last month about the increasing residues of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) that are being detected in America’s waterways. They could create problems so slowly that science may not recognize them until they’re too late to stop.

However, while some of the new guidelines — such returning unused drugs to the pharmacy where you bought them or asking a pharmacist what to do with them — make great sense, others merely move the environmental peril from one place to another — such as diluting medicines in water and mixing them in garbage that eventually end up in a landfill near you anyway.

The best way to reduce environmental drug pollution is also the simplest and most obvious — cut down the number of drugs you take in the first place, or stop taking them altogether. The vast majority of drugs are dangerous and unnecessary band-aids that treat symptoms without ever addressing underlying health problems.

One of the first and best things you can do for your body and the health of our environment is to begin taking better responsibility for both by staying away from the fatally flawed conventional health care paradigm that regularly throws one-pill cures at health issues rather than looking for the real cause of them.

However, we obviously want to focus on being practical, and it is very clear our culture is not shifting quickly enough; this problem is going to get FAR worse before it gets better.

So what is your action item?

Avoid drinking unfiltered tap water whenever possible for this and the many other reasons I have previously mentioned. Many will use this to justify using bottled water. Please understand that although this is reasonable from a health perspective it is not a good choice for the environment and then ultimately for you and the rest of the human race. Please read the lead article in today’s issue to find out why bottled water is not cool anymore.

Using the five-gallon water bottles is not really the problem. The primary issue is the disposable bottles.

So ideally you will use filtered water from your own tap. The best way to do this is highly controversial. I have been working on offering a water filter solution for over six years now, and I am still researching it. The challenge is to provide a high-quality one at a reasonable price, and I refuse to do it until I find the right one.

I really hope to have one this year, but if you must simply get one before then and want to do your own research I have studied it enough to know that reverse osmosis filters are the way to go. Some are concerned that it takes minerals out of the water but that should not be a major source of your minerals anyway.

Whatever you do, avoid distilled water unless you are using it therapeutically for some sort of detox.