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DuPage adding drop boxes for old medications
By Jake Griffin | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/24/2009 4:05 PM

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DuPage County's health department is teaming with police departments to offer prescription drug drop boxes throughout the area.

The health department is negotiating with seven or eight police agencies where the drop boxes would be placed, said Kevin Dixon, director of environmental health.

Dixon told the county board Tuesday that the program is close to going live and the boxes would provide residents a place to safely dispose of old prescription medications. Dixon said the boxes will help prevent accidental overdoses, prescription drug abuse by teenagers and keep people from flushing medications down the toilet.

Improper disposal is becoming a greater environmental hazard, Dixon said. Because most water treatment plants can't filter out drugs before the wastewater is released into streams, increased levels of prescription drugs are showing up in water systems and even in wildlife. Dixon said a recent study showed higher levels of medication tainting in 80 percent of 139 streams sampled in 30 states.

Low levels of pharmaceuticals have been found in the drinking water of 24 cities, he said.

Police stations were chosen to house the drop boxes for two reasons, Dixon said.

"By putting them in police lobbies, there's less of a chance the wrong things end up in there," he said. "There was also a concern over who can legally handle controlled substances."

Municipalities would pay between $500 and $600 for the drop boxes and the state hires a company to properly dispose of the medications at an incinerator, said Jeff Redick, the board's environmental committee chairman. Police would log the weight of each shipment sent for disposal, but the contents would not be inventoried.

Board member Don Puchalski was worried about personal information listed on prescription bottles falling into the wrong hands. But Dixon said residents don't have to dump their unused prescriptions in the bottle, they can put them in sealed plastic bags if they want.

Dixon said the health department hopes to announce participating departments by the end of this week.