Although pharmaceuticals and personal care products have been most likely present in the environment for as long as humans have been using them, it has been until only recently that the contamination of ground water with PPCPs has become an area of growing concern. Over the past few years, prescription anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, contraceptives and even over the counter medications are showing up in ground water quality tests near sewage treatment plants.
These compounds are being found at higher and higher concentrations each year and have been found in many marine environments, such as estuaries and bays. Metabolized forms of these medications have been found in tissue samples of fish populations all across the country and the effects that these medications may have on marine species are still widely unknown. Some studies have found that the presence of anti-depressants in some species of fish have led to severe neurological defects, such as increased aggression.
You should never flush unused medications down the drain unless stated.
Most pharmacies and police precincts have specific drop-off locations for unused pharmaceuticals so that they may be safely destroyed with no chance of any harm coming to the environment. For more information, click on the following link to the FDA Drug Disposal Page.
In addition to pharmaceuticals, groundwater systems are also being contaminated with personal care products, such as soaps, shampoos, and anything else that you may use on your body. Some PPCPs are easily broken down by bacterial agents, but others are more resistant and able to make it into the groundwater. Although personal care products have been used for centuries, they still may be causing unknown effects in aquatic systems.