Photo of pouring unwanted drugs into a toiletWhat Drugs Can Be Flushed into a Septic Tank - Septic Tank Maintenance and Protection Advice

  • DRUGS INTO the SEPTIC TANK? - CONTENTS: How to dispose of un-wanted drugs and medical supplies - not into the toilet, not into the septic tank, Don't flush un-used drugs into the septic tank; Excreted medications and their effect on private septic systems
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about disposing of drugs and medicines by flushing them down the toilet

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Are there some drugs or medications that are safe to dispose-of by flushing them down the toilet or pouring them down a sink and into a private septic system?

What unwanted or old drugs may damage the septic tank or leach fields?

This document explains how to extend the life of the septic system by being careful about what goes into it.

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Pouring Drugs into the Toilet, Sink, or Septic System?

perscription drug being poured into a toiletDrugs, prescription or prescription medicines, should never be flushed down a toilet unless your pharmacist or the drug manufacturer tells you specifically that the particular drug is absolutely harmless to the environment.

While this is not a new topic, as recently as April 2007 the New York Times reported the growing detection of pharmaceuticals such as birth control pills, anti-depressants, painkillers, shampoos, and other compounds in rivers, lakes, streams, and ground water, including possibly drinking water.

The Times article described "pharmaceutical and personal care products" or "P.P.C.P.'s which are being flushed down drains and which pass through sewage treatment systems and private residential septic systems into the aquifer.

Beyond a possible hazard of inadvertent consumption of antibiotics (and growing development of bacteria resistant to our antibiotics), it is possible that very low levels of other compounds will have a drastic affect on some animals, possibly going un-detected until that population declines beyond its ability to recover.

Reader Question: ok to put chemotherapy drugs into the septic tank?

23 Janyart 2915 David said:

I have a friend who lives on a rural property, serviced by well & septic. He is receiving chemotherapy for prostate cancer. It was his oncologist( who also lives on a property with well & septic) that suggested he rent a Portopottie to use while he was being treated. Doc said my friend's human waste could contain enough residual of the chemo to upset or kill off the bacteria in the septic system. Doc also said the same thing could be true of people on extended course of certain strong antibiotics.
It makes sense, but has anyone else ever heard of it before?Does Doc know septics or should he stick to medicine?


David in addition to the comments above, we discuss flushing drugs, particularly antibiotics, into septic systems at



And in the research below be sure to see Johnson (2008), "Do cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs discharged into rivers pose a risk to the environment and human health? An overview and UK case study."

However I'm not sure that a single individual's drugs are enough to kill off septic tank bacteria and I've not found any authoritative research that supports the argument for individuals. Where such problems were reported they involved multi-occupant nursing homes and hospitals.

Research on pharmaceuticals and other drugs on wastewater and on septic systems

  • Aleem, Asma, Jasmine Isar, and Abdul Malik. "Impact of long-term application of industrial wastewater on the emergence of resistance traits in< i> Azotobacter chroococcum</i> isolated from rhizospheric soil." Bioresource Technology 86, no. 1 (2003): 7-13.
  • Basheer, Chanbasha, Han Guang Chong, Toh Ming Hii, and Hian Kee Lee. "Application of porous membrane-protected micro-solid-phase extraction combined with HPLC for the analysis of acidic drugs in wastewater." Analytical chemistry 79, no. 17 (2007): 6845-6850.
  • Buerge, Ignaz J., Hans-Rudolf Buser, Thomas Poiger, and Markus D. Müller. "Occurrence and fate of the cytostatic drugs cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide in wastewater and surface waters." Environmental science & technology 40, no. 23 (2006): 7242-7250.
  • Delgado, Luis F., Sylvie Schetrite, Carlos Gonzalez, and Claire Albasi. "Effect of cytostatic drugs on microbial behaviour in membrane bioreactor system." Bioresource technology 101, no. 2 (2010): 527-536.
  • Farré, Marinel, Imma Ferrer, Antoni Ginebreda, Mercè Figueras, Lourdes Olivella, Lluis Tirapu, Manel Vilanova, and Damià Barceló. "Determination of drugs in surface water and wastewater samples by liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry: methods and preliminary results including toxicity studies with< i> Vibrio fischeri</i>." Journal of Chromatography A 938, no. 1 (2001): 187-197.
  • Gautam, Ajay Kumar, Sunil Kumar, and P. C. Sabumon. "Preliminary study of physico-chemical treatment options for hospital wastewater." Journal of environmental management 83, no. 3 (2007): 298-306.
  • García-Galán, M. Jesús, M. Silvia Díaz-Cruz, and Damià Barceló. "Occurrence of sulfonamide residues along the Ebro river basin: removal in wastewater treatment plants and environmental impact assessment." Environment international 37, no. 2 (2011): 462-473.
  • Kasprzyk-Hordern, Barbara, and David R. Baker. "Enantiomeric profiling of chiral drugs in wastewater and receiving waters." Environmental science & technology 46, no. 3 (2012): 1681-1691.
  • Kasprzyk-Hordern, Barbara, Richard M. Dinsdale, and Alan J. Guwy. "The removal of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, endocrine disruptors and illicit drugs during wastewater treatment and its impact on the quality of receiving waters." Water research 43, no. 2 (2009): 363-380.
  • Kümmerer, Klaus. "Drugs in the environment: emission of drugs, diagnostic aids and disinfectants into wastewater by hospitals in relation to other sources–a review." Chemosphere 45, no. 6 (2001): 957-969.
  • Kümmerer, Klaus. "Significance of antibiotics in the environment." Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 52, no. 1 (2003): 5-7.
  • Johnson, Andrew C., Monika D. Jürgens, Richard J. Williams, Klaus Kümmerer, Andreas Kortenkamp, and John P. Sumpter. "Do cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs discharged into rivers pose a risk to the environment and human health? An overview and UK case study." Journal of Hydrology 348, no. 1 (2008): 167-175.
  • Ort, Christoph, Michael G. Lawrence, Jörg Rieckermann, and Adriano Joss. "Sampling for pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and illicit drugs in wastewater systems: are your conclusions valid? A critical review." Environmental science & technology 44, no. 16 (2010): 6024-6035.
  • Petrie, Bruce, Ewan J. McAdam, Mark D. Scrimshaw, John N. Lester, and Elise Cartmell. "Fate of drugs during wastewater treatment." TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry 49 (2013): 145-159.
  • Prasse, Carsten, Michael P. Schlüsener, Ralf Schulz, and Thomas A. Ternes. "Antiviral drugs in wastewater and surface waters: a new pharmaceutical class of environmental relevance?." Environmental science & technology 44, no. 5 (2010): 1728-1735.
  • Raloff, Janet. "Drugged waters." Science News 153, no. 12 (1998): 187-189.
  • Robinson, Isabelle, Guillaume Junqua, Raymond Van Coillie, and Olivier Thomas. "Trends in the detection of pharmaceutical products, and their impact and mitigation in water and wastewater in North America." Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry 387, no. 4 (2007): 1143-1151.
  • Samaras, Vasilios G., Nikolaos S. Thomaidis, Athanasios S. Stasinakis, Georgia Gatidou, and Themistokles D. Lekkas. "Determination of selected non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in wastewater by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry." International Journal of Environmental and Analytical Chemistry 90, no. 3-6 (2010): 219-229.
  • Terzic, Senka, Ivan Senta, and Marijan Ahel. "Illicit drugs in wastewater of the city of Zagreb (Croatia)–Estimation of drug abuse in a transition country." Environmental pollution 158, no. 8 (2010): 2686-2693.
  • Wick, Arne, Guido Fink, Adriano Joss, Hansruedi Siegrist, and Thomas A. Ternes. "Fate of beta blockers and psycho-active drugs in conventional wastewater treatment." Water research 43, no. 4 (2009): 1060-1074.
  • Zhou, J. L., Z. L. Zhang, E. Banks, D. Grover, and J. Q. Jiang. "Pharmaceutical residues in wastewater treatment works effluents and their impact on receiving river water." Journal of Hazardous Materials 166, no. 2 (2009): 655-661.


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