I’ve written previously about the potential health dangers that discarded drugs pose to our water supply. This year, 13 states are considering bills that would create drug take-back programs. Maine’s House of Representatives recently endorsed a plan that would require drug manufacturers to set up and operate programs to collect, transport, manage, and dispose of unwanted drugs.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) objected to Maine’s bill, arguing that the levels of pharmaceuticals found in water supplies and landfills are too small to pose a risk. PhRMA may be right that the levels of drugs are too small to pose risks to humans, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is concerned that the drugs may harm fish and other aquatic life. I’m glad that EPA is studying this question. I believe that if we harm our ecosystem, we can’t help harming ourselves.
Besides, we have a precedent for asking the pharmaceutical industry to help dispose of unused and potentially toxic products. After the public realized that toxins could leach from electronic components and potentially poison the environment, 19 states passed legislation requiring electronics manufacturers to help pay for these components to be recycled. Maine just updated its electronics recycling law last spring.
I think the general shape of Maine’s drug take-back bill is positive, and I’d like to see it become law. Pharmaceutical manufacturers know the most about the medicines that they create, and I think the idea that they should help dispose of the products should be noncontroversial. In fact, PhRMA would score points with the public and establish its green credentials by supporting bills such as Maine’s. Our environment and our health would both benefit.