Warning issued on medicine, chemical disposal

Warning issued on medicine, chemical disposal

DANVILLE — Local health officials are issuing a warning after a rash of bird and animal deaths in southern Vermilion County were linked to toxic chemicals.

"Medications, household chemicals and agricultural chemicals should be stored so that pets and children cannot access them," said Shirley Hicks, the Vermilion County Health Department's administrator. "And when those items are no longer being used, they should be disposed of properly and safely."

Most prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs can be thrown out with the household trash, but consumers should take certain precautions before doing so, said Douglas Toole, the health department's director of environmental health.

Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless the label or patient information specifically instructs the consumer to do so.

If no instructions are given on the drug label, throw the drugs in the household trash, but first take them out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and then put them in a sealable bag.

When in doubt about proper disposal, talk to a pharmacist.

Household chemical products must be used according to directions, and they must also be disposed of safely.

The best way to dispose of most household chemical products is to use as much of the products for their intended purposes as possible. Aerosol containers should be emptied completely before they are disposed of in the trash.

The labels on the containers of agricultural chemicals and their Material Safety Data Sheets often give advice on their proper disposal.

Over the span of a few weeks earlier this year, five dogs, a cat, a skunk and three birds have died in the small community of Jamaica under unusual circumstances.

Toxicology testing was performed on one of the dogs, the cat and two of the birds. The cat was found to have salicylic acid in its system, a medication used in the removal of warts. The starlings ingested an insecticide known as carbofuran, which is toxic to birds.

A locally owned rat terrier either directly ingested carbofuran or ate a portion of a bird which had ingested carbofuran. The dog also had a trace amount of strychnine, a toxin sometimes used in rat poison, in its system.

Carbofuran (Furadan(r)) has not been sold in the United States since 2010. Anyone with a full, unopened container of carbofuran can contact its manufacturer, FMC of Pennsylvania, at 1-800-231-5808 to return it. Anyone with a partial, opened container of carbofuran should contact the distributor from which it was purchased to ask about its disposal.

"What happened in Jamaica was unfortunate," said County Board Chairman Jim McMahon. "But hopefully it will serve as a reminder to residents about the importance of storing and disposing of medications and chemicals properly."


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DEB wrote on May 05, 2012 at 11:05 am

Thanks for the reminder, News Gazette. Let's not forget that this stuff gets into the water supply and affects people too!  Seeps into wells.  Travels by creekflows and rain.  And children too, are sometimes known to put things that they find on the ground into their mouths.  Proper disposal isn't really all that hard.  I have to admit, for years I never thought twice about tossing or flushing expired or unused medicines. Then I began hearing about children affected by low levels in their drinking water.  And then someone at my church had a child who died from eating a discarded pill.  Ever since, I've figured it is easy enough and something a responsible member of society should do.  Maybe someday I'll recycle too.  But in my mind the benefits of this are more immediate and more local.