News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 23, 2007

Disposing of medication and hazardous household waste

Staff report

Hundreds of pounds of toxic substances are used by both businesses and individuals everyday. These substances, which are often released into the air and water, may possibly cause long term health and pollution problems. With this in mind, what should you do with left over paint, motor oil, antifreeze, fertilizer, household cleaners and other household toxic waste?

The most effective way to deal with hazardous waste is to generate less. Buy only what you can use or share products with neighbors and family. You can also donate or recycle leftover materials. Many auto parts stores and service stations accept used auto batteries and motor oil. Other places you can donate leftover materials could be a business, charity, or a government agency. There are many collection programs set up throughout the state, most with scheduled collection days or permanent hazardous waste collection facilities. To find out your municipal’s requirements and pickup schedule, check out Earth’s 911 Web site at

When you enter your zip code, you’ll get a listing of household hazardous waste disposal methods and your local pick-up schedule.

What can you do with expired and unused medication? There’s no easy answer. Flushing medication down the sink or toilet is common, but that may be bad for the environment. The long-term effect of medication on the environment is unknown at the moment, but there is a potential for harm. Throwing medication away with the trash may cause less pollution, but there is a risk that other people or animals may get hold of it. Privacy may also a concern if containers have labels with names and other personal information. Incineration is best, but is not easily available and although some hazardous waste programs may accept drugs, they cannot accept controlled substances. Some pharmacies are willing to take drugs back— check to see if the pharmacy you use is one of them. In the meantime, until a solution is reached, the Indiana Poison Center recommends the following steps to more safely dispose of expired and unused medication (important: if you are taking an antibiotic, you should finish all the medicine with nothing leftover):

• Keep medication in original containers with child-resistant lids firmly in place.

• Dispose of medications that are no longer being used or are past their expiration date (usually one year after the medication was dispensed).

• Remove labels before getting rid of the medication or use a permanent marker to cover any personal information on labels.

• If throwing away liquids, place the liquids in a plastic bag that can be sealed in case of leaks. Wrap glass bottles to prevent breakage.

• Mix medications with items like cat litter or coffee grounds so people will be less likely to take them.

• Add a small amount of water to pills or capsules to at least partly dissolve them.

• Place medication inside a package such as a box that doesn’t show what’s inside.

• Put medication in the trash as close to pick up time as possible — do not place in recycling bins.

To learn more about poison prevention and to receive a free magnet and phone stickers, call the Indiana Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222, or visit the Center’s Web site at For a poisoning emergency, call the Poison Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222 where experts are standing by 24 hours a day to help you.

The Indiana Poison Center is an independent, non-profit, agency providing coverage and services for the entire state of Indiana. It serves as both an emergency telephone service and an information resource center, with services accessible to the general public and health care professionals 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

The IPC is the designated Regional Poison Information Center for Indiana and is certified by the America an Association of Poison Control Centers. It is a collaborative effort of the Indiana State Department of Health, Clarian Health Partners, the Federal Health Resources Services Administration and health care providers throughout the state.