Baykeeper Update

New Victory to Help Prevent Drug Pollution in the Bay

Baykeeper is celebrating a new victory that will help prevent pharmaceutical contamination of San Francisco Bay. Contra Costa County recently passed an ordinance requiring drug makers to cover the cost of safe disposal of prescription medications.

This law will help prevent leftover pharmaceuticals from being flushed down the toilet or sink, where they travel through the sewage system and into the Bay. It will also help keep drugs out of the trash, where they can enter the Bay through landfill runoff.

Pharmaceutical water pollution is a growing problem. Drugs for treating hypertension, angina, arrhythmia, migraine, and allergies have been detected in the tissues of San Francisco Bay mussels. Eighteen pharmaceuticals have been found in the water of South San Francisco Bay. These chemicals can keep fish and other wildlife from reproducing, interfere with their foraging, and reduce their ability to avoid predators.

It’s crucial that consumers have access to convenient drug drop-off points throughout the Bay Area. As a result of advocacy by Baykeeper, Clean Water Action, other environmental organizations, and local officials, safe drug disposal laws have already passed in several other Bay Area counties. In fact, Alameda County was a national leader on this front, passing the first such law in the country—and successfully countering a drug industry challenge to that law in the U.S. Supreme Court. There are now eight such ordinances in the Bay Area, and 13 nationwide.  

For a list of Bay Area drug disposal programs by county, click here.

Photo by Gatis Gribusts, Flickr/CC.