Drugs Utilization. Heals First – Then Can Cripple

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Plastic – separately, paper – separately, old clothes – and then off to the second-hand. Classifying garbage before throwing anything away has already become a common practice. But what to do when you clean out the first-aid kit? Where should expired pills, sprays,or a broken mercury thermometer end up,and why? And how does this get handled for example in the Czech Republic?

Modern legislation classifies drugs as “unsafe waste”, so it’s worth treating them accordingly.

Why unsafe waste?

After the expiration date of a drug, its manufacturer cannot guarantee how the substances in its composition will behave, and moreover, how they might interact with the environment. However, elimination may be required, and not only in this case: we have all found ourselves in situations where the doctor prescribed pills for us, and as a result, most of the prescription remained unused.

In no case, according to the Jaktřidit.cz project experts, is it permissible to throw unused medications into the trash can with other waste or into the sewage system. If the drug gets into the trash can, there is a risk that unsafe substances from its composition will penetrate into the soil; the same, in fact, can occur after you flush pills down the toilet: it is extremely difficult to clean up water once medications are dissolved in it, and in some cases it is impossible.

The only correct way to dispose of medicines is to take them to a pharmacy or to a collection point for unsafe waste, if any exists, and if they are willing to take care of medicines there.

It is worth noting that even with proper utilization of drugs, nature somehow has to deal with them – they get into the environment as part of the metabolic products of the human body.

What can happen if you leave expired medication at home until better times?

You will forget that it is overdue, and at some point you will take it, risking harm to your health. The medicine may fall into the hands of a child or a person to who absolutely should not take it – neither the one nor the other can properly take note of the danger. Finally, you can forget what this medicine is for, and again, inadvertently harm yourself.

Every pharmacy is required to take unused medications from customers. Some drug stores have special sealed containers for this purpose, where people can leave them,” says Marta Gladikova, a pharmacist at the Benu pharmacy chain.

Collected drugs are not disposed of on-site – for this, the pharmacy usually has a contract with a certified company that deals with the removal and processing of hazardous waste. Drugs are regularly transported to an incinerator, where they are burned together with their containers at certain temperatures, and all third-party emissions are strictly controlled. All processing costs are borne by the administrative unit in which this pharmacy is registered.

How should you determine whethera particular product belongs specifically to unsafe waste?

In the event that an image of a container with a cross on it appearson the drug’s label, then it is unsafe waste that cannot be thrown into a container for mixed waste or in any other. Other symbols drawn on an orange background testify to the same: skulls, images of fire, and others. On the basis of them, it is possible to determine what you are dealing with: typically,a toxic, easily flammable, explosive, caustic or otherwiseharmful substance. In addition to the designation, the name of the active unsafe substance must be written on the package.

In the case of drugs, there is no more or less harmless drug when it comes to recycling. “Recently, there has been talk of antibiotic resistance, although antibiotics are far from the only category of medicines that need to be handled very carefully.  The use and disposal of any medication should be approached wisely,” saysMartin Matla, executive director of the Czech Association of Pharmaceutical Firms.

According to him, in the Czech Republic, there is currently a properly functioning system for collecting expired and unused medicines, in which the patient can drop them off at any pharmacy. However, despite this, Czech society is still far from perfectly aware of these issues: the results of a study by the State Administration for Drug Control showed that the majority of Czech citizens eliminate drugs incorrectly, thus endangering the state of the environment. What kind of drugs in question was not established during the study. To remedy the situation, you can, first of all, spread the necessary information among about the proper disposal of medicines among your friends and neighbors. «The State Institute for Drug Control actively educates the general public on the correct disposal of medicines through the Drug does Not Belong in the Trash Basket’ campaign, which is based ona research project named Real Drug Use and its Financial Impact on the Health System of the Czech Republic’ about the extent and the financial implications of prescription and non-utilized over-the-counter medicines. The campaign aims primarily to increase the safety of medicines and Czech citizens’ interest in both their own health and the environment», – reported the press secretary of The State Institute for Drug Control, Monika Knobova.

Additional information:  

What, besides drugs and thermometers, is classified as unsafe waste?

– batteries and accumulators

– spray cans

– garden chemistry

– oils and fats

– solvents and paints

– acids and hydroxides

– adhesives and resins

– detergents and stain removers

– photo chemicals

– pesticides (meant for fighting insects, rodents, weeds, mold)

– fluorescent and gas discharge lamps

– refrigerators and freezers

– failed electrical appliances

Photo: Shutterstock

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