What happens when we use consumer products that can harm water quality and wildlife? Some of them end up in the Bay.
Wastewater that goes down your toilet, sink, and shower drain is sent to a wastewater treatment plant that removes many toxic pollutants. But some contaminants are not removed, and enter the Bay via treated wastewater. Here are ways you can help reduce contamination from two types of these pollutants, microbeads and pharmaceuticals:
Avoid using consumer products that contain plastic microbeads
Microbeads are tiny particles of plastic used in facial scrubs, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, eyeliner, lip gloss, deodorant, and sunblock. When these products are washed down a sink or shower drain, they aren’t removed by treatment at a wastewater plant—so they enter the Bay. These materials are being found in the tissues of birds and marine mammals, and open-water swimmers can swallow them.
To avoid microbeads, don’t buy any product with an ingredient list that includes Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), or nylon. Safe alternative ingredients that provide scrubbing include ground apricot shells and cocoa beans.
Don’t flush unused or leftover medications down the toilet or sink drain
Prescription drugs pass through sewage treatment plants and into waterways, where they keep fish and other wildlife from reproducing, interfere with their foraging, and reduce their ability to avoid predators. Eighteen pharmaceuticals have been found in the water of South San Francisco Bay. Drugs to treat hypertension, angina, arrhythmia, and migraine, as well as antihistamines, have been found in the tissues of San Francisco Bay mussels.
Take unused medications to a proper disposal facility like your local pharmacy, contact your city’s wastewater treatment facility for specific disposal information, or use your county’s drug disposal program. For a list of Bay Area county drug disposal programs, click here.
Support laws in your community requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to develop, implement, and fund safe and convenient programs for drug disposal
Alameda County is implementing a safe prescription drug disposal program, San Francisco is expanding its pilot program, and other Bay Area communities are considering similar options. Let your local leaders know you want safe drug disposal, funded by pharmaceutical companies.
Photo by Roberto Soncin Gerometta