The federal government advises throwing most unused or expired medications into the trash instead of down the drain, but they can end up in the water anyway, a study from Maine suggests.
Tiny amounts of discarded drugs have been found in water at three landfills in the state, confirming suspicions that pharmaceuticals thrown into household trash are ending up in water that drains through waste, according to a survey by the state's environmental agency that's one of only a handful to have looked at the presence of drugs in landfills.
Concerns have grown in recent years over pharmaceuticals reaching drinking water supplies. An Associated Press investigation in 2008 reported that the drinking water of at least 51 million Americans contains minute concentrations of a multitude of drugs.
It's commonly believed that the vast majority of drugs that get into water supplies come from human and animal excretion and that smaller amounts come from flushing them down the toilet or drain, a practice the Food and Drug Administration says is not recommended for most medications.