In a big win for the environment and local governments, which are often saddled with costs for clean up and disposal of unwanted items like paint, batteries and other household waste, a US District Court Judge has upheld Alameda County's Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance, set to take effect in November.
The ordinance would require pharmaceutical companies to create and fund take back programs, where Alameda County residents could dispose of unwanted, unused or expired drugs safely. According to the ordinance, safe disposal programs are necessary as there are health risks associated with using illegally resold or expired pharmaceuticals; when drugs are flushed down the toilet as a method of disposal, they can contaminate groundwater.
The United States Geological Survey has found that 80% of the waterways they have searched contain trace amounts of pharmaceutical compounds. While trace amounts of pharmaceuticals have unknown effects on humans, they have a demonstrated, negative affect on certain wildlife, such as fish. Trace amounts of antidepressants in particular, which are found in many waterways, cause abnormalities in the fish reproductive cycle.
Improperly disposed medications can also lead to accidental poisonings of young children and opportunities for substance abuse.
A group representing the pharmaceutical industry sued Alameda County, claiming the ordinance burdened interstate commerce. U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg disagreed:
"Defendants have adequately shown that the ordinance serves a legitimate public health and safety interest, and that the relatively modest compliance costs producers will incur should they choose to sell their products in the county do not unduly burden interstate commerce," Seeborg wrote in the order issued Wednesday.
This is a huge victory for Alameda County and CAW hopes it encourages other local governments to develop their own take back ordinances in the absence of a larger scale solution.
Read the news article here.
Find out more about the risks associated with pharmaceutical waste.