Hey Mr. Green,
What's the best way to deal with leftover prescription medications?
--Paul in Delmar, New York
Dispose of unused medications in your trash can rather than flushing them down the toilet or sink. Sewage-treatment plants can't remove all chemicals, and when pharmaceuticals are in the outflow (whether dumped in whole or after they've passed through the body), they harm marine life. Male fish, for example, are becoming female because of drug contaminants in waterways.
Researchers in Colorado, to cite one instance, found characteristics of both sexes in many individual white suckers; in Boulder Creek, females outnumbered males five to one, and half the males also had female organs--not because of willing transgender tendencies, but because of hormones in the water.
To be hypercautious, or if your neighbors are dope fiends who'll rummage through trash and ingest any meds they find, follow these procedures recommended by the EPA: (1) Keep medicine in its original container, scratching out the patient's name. (2) Check whether your community offers a prescription-drug disposal program--many do. (3) Before discarding them, modify drugs to discourage consumption by adding a small amount of liquid to pills, and adding salt, charcoal, or spices to liquids. (4) Seal the container shut with strong tape. (5) Place it in a nontransparent bag (don't hide it in food products). (6) Discard it as close to the scheduled garbage pickup time as possible.