Medication disposal program marks successful first month

REDWOOD CITY — One month into San Mateo County’s first drug disposal program, the four agencies taking part have collected 68 pounds of pharmaceutical drugs brought in by area seniors and others.

The four drop-off sites, located at the police departments of Daly City, Pacifica and San Bruno and the Sheriff’s Office in Redwood City, averaged 17 pounds of unwanted medicines over the past four weeks since County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier announced the program in September.

The program is aimed at curbing environmental contamination, preventing recreational use of prescription drugs and assisting seniors in avoiding medication errors.

Many wastewater treatment plants aren’t designed to filter out medicines when they’re flushed or put down the drain, and fish have begun testing positive for antibiotics and hormones found in medicines.

While there’s been a growing national trend of abusing pharmaceutical drugs by teenagers and young adults, Pacifica police haven’t noticed it locally but are on the look out for such rumblings of “farm parties,” Pacifica Police Chief Jim Saunders said.

“We wanted to be preventative and proactive on it,” Saunders said.

The 17-pound average at a disposal site matches the rate from a weeklong effort during Earthweek 2005, when 13 Peninsula cities took part, according to Tissier’s office.

San Mateo, Hillsborough and Burlingame in San Mateo County, as well as Vacaville, Santa Clara County, San Diego County and the East Bay Municipal Utility District have all made inquiries about the program, according to the supervisors’office.

All medicines turned in to the program should remain in their original containers with the private, identifying information removed. The disposal program doesn’t accept illegal drugs, like ecstacy or methamphetamines. The medicines are then taken to a hazardous waste collector where they are incinerated.

Staff and wire reports contributed to this story.

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