EPA survey: How do you dispose of unused pharmaceuticals?

Agency wants to know why some still dump drugs down the drain

Published: August 29, 2008
By VIN News Service staff

Washington — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking feedback on a draft survey designed to study the disposal practices of unused pharmaceuticals by health-care workers, including DVMs.

Comments, which can be submitted to EPA at, are due Nov. 10.

The first-of-its-kind survey titled the Study of Unused Pharmaceuticals from Medical and Veterinary Facilities is part of EPA’s charge to define the risks associated with emerging contaminants and address water pollution. The agency’s strategy is aimed at improving science, public understanding, identifying partnership opportunities and taking regulatory action.

“EPA hopes to understand why some health-care facilities are still disposing of pharmaceuticals down the drain and how EPA can best influence the facilities to manage unused pharmaceuticals properly,” the agency says.

Veterinary hospitals are on the list of health-care operations to receive the questionnaire, which is being approved by the Office of Management and Budget, EPA says in a Federal Register notice dated Aug. 12. If received, completing the questionnaire will be mandatory. EPA estimates it will send the survey to 3,544 participants, although after viewing the comments, that universe might expand to include veterinary offices (facilities that could be considered distinct from veterinary hospitals), medical and dental offices as well as prison and university clinics.   

According to EPA’s Web site, the proposed survey includes two questionnaires, one tailored to human health-care facilities and another for veterinary hospitals. EPA wants information on current disposal practices in these facilities, alternative practices for managing unused pharmaceuticals and the types and amounts of drugs being disposed.

To complete the questionnaire, respondents will be required to report 30 days' worth of pharmaceutical disposal data, which may require development of a tracking system for unused pharmaceuticals, the agency says.  

VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.