Well, the title is a bit dramatic – it really should read “Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products.”
It’s the second brochure in GMWEA’s “Don’t Flush It!” series, and it’s now available. Part of a public education project funded by a grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program and NEIWPCC, it’s intended to protect our natural waters – and ourselves – from contaminants we flush, pour, spread, or otherwise put into our wastewater stream.
GMWEA encourages every Vermont city and town to help get the information into the public’s hands. It’s now available for download on GMWEA’s website, and GMWEA can provide a total of 5,000 printed brochures to towns requesting them.
Click here — Don’t Flush It — Drugs! — to download the print- and post-ready PDF; to request printed copies (for towns planning to mail them to residents), contact Daniel Hecht at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first brochure, “Cloggers!,” was enthusiastically received — especially by wastewater operators weary of dealing with pump and pipe malfunction due to congealed fats, oils, and greases mixed with solid materials such as the not-very flushable “flushable” wipes. Sent in digital form to every municipality and waste district in Vermont back in June, “Cloggers!” was posted on scores of town websites, and many towns printed the brochures and mailed them with property tax bills or sewer/water bills.
“Drugs!” details the harmful impacts of medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – when they’re flushed or poured into household wastewater streams. These unnatural chemicals can linger in groundwater, rivers, and lakes, and some can enter drinking water sources. They can cause harm to aquatic ecosystems, some causing deformities in fish, amphibians, and other wildlife.
They’re not so great for people, either. The brochure advises dropping off unused medications at one of the Vt. Health Department’s 84 safe drop sites, mailing them in, or mixing them with something unpleasant – cat litter, for example – before tossing in the trash. (For more information, go to www.healthvermont.gov/alcohol-drugs/services/prescription-drug-disposal or call (802) 651-1550.)
Medications, though, are the easier pollutant to control. More problematic are the thousands of chemicals used in personal care products – consumer products for body care and comfort. We all use them every day, unaware that they pass through or wash off our bodies and pollute ground and surface waters with damaging chemicals. They’re not food, so they’re not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
Hair dye, shampoo, perfume, insect repellent, sunscreen, body washes, cosmetics, deodorants, steroid cream, anti-fungal cream, nail polish – it’s a long list. These chemicals aren’t removed by our private septic systems or municipal sewage treatment plants, so they end up in natural waters, damaging wildlife, and the U.S. EPA considers many of them to be “contaminants of emerging concern” for humans as well. In essence, that means we’ve only recently discovered they’re bad for us, and we’re not sure how to deal with them.
“Drugs!” identifies the most common products chock-full of bad chemicals – highly-perfumed and highly-colored products are often the worst – and suggests easy ways to limit your household’s contribution of them. Never pour or flush ‘em if unwanted or unused (cap tightly and put in trash); avoid highly-scented products; limit use of antibacterial lotions; identify the worst environmental offenders and choose brands that don’t use them. Most of all, learn about them — the brochure offers several web resources for more information.
The underlying principle of this initiative is that public systems can only do so much to identify and remove contaminants. Fortunately, informed Vermonters can easily adopt habits that significantly reduce our collective pollution of our waters.
Get the brochure! And please help spread the word.
GMWEA thanks the Castleton University Content Lab for donating graphic design services to this initiative, and is grateful to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for logistical support.
To return to GMWEA’s website, CLICK HERE.