Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Are Our Medicines Tainting the Environment?


In other words, "things" are turning up in around 40% of tested sites, though at low levels. They include various types of antibiotics -- which the USGS looked for in all the streams -- plus 24 prescription and nonprescription drugs that were looked for in a third of the streams, and household products and sex hormones (such as estrogen) looked for in another third.

While health effects aren't the purview of the USGS, Buxton says the organization is aware of the potential problems. Sex hormones from the environment could disrupt normal functions of the human endocrine system, he says. And some antibiotics could become less effective in people if bacteria have been exposed to them in the environment.

Daughton says that although no one is sure of the importance of drug pollution, it might be a good idea to try to curb it. He suggests that drug companies start figuring out a way to individualize dosages to lessen waste. "Dosages could all be much lower than they are now," he says, and physicians and pharmacists could help by prescribing only what's needed and disposing of outdated drugs properly.

That advice also applies to consumers, who are frequently told -- even by pharmacists -- to flush leftover drugs down the toilet. Experts say that timeworn advice, in light of the latest evidence, would seem, at the very least, imprudent. But since drugs thrown into the garbage can end up in the wrong hands, there may be no foolproof alternative, at least for now.

In Europe, people can return their expired drugs to pharmacists, Daughton says, but no such disposal system is available in this country.

Vital Information:

  • Researchers in Europe are finding a variety of drugs in river water and sediment, probably coming from sewage and/or improper disposal.
  • In this country, scientists are just beginning to study the presence of therapeutic drugs in the environment. So far, they are finding antibiotics and other prescription and nonprescription drugs, as well as sex hormones such as estrogen.
  • Although the effects of this drug pollution on the environment or on humans are not well understood, some experts advice pharmaceutical companies to individualize drug dosages to cut down waste, pharmacists to dispose of drugs properly, and people not to flush them down the toilet.
1 | 2 | 3

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing