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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
  • REFERENCES
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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?

PHOTOGRAPH of
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?

Reply:

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

CHEMICALS to KEEP OUT OF SEPTICS

Also see ENDOCRINE DISRUPTERS at BUILDINGS

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.

Impact of Antibiotics & Other Drugs on Residential Septic Systems

Question: septic pumper company says taking medications can kill off good septic tank bacteria - is that true?

11/6/2015 Larry said:

Our septic has had to be pumped every 6 months recently, We don't put anything down we shouldn't. The company that pumped said that taking medication could kill off the good bacteria in the tank. Is that true? My wife and I are both taking medication. Could this cause a problem?

This question was posted originally at SEPTIC TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS

Reply:

Having to pump a septic tank every 6 months does not fix an underlying problem of an under-sized or poorly designed system or more likely a failed drainfield; it doesn't make sense to me unless you're using your system with a failed drainfield and treating it as a semi-holding tank; a septic tank at a typical home is re-filled in a few days after pumping; faster if groundwater is leaking into the tank; so it's not right that the septic tank should be kept below its normally-full level.

Taking some meds, particularly antibiotics and some nuclear medicines can send meds into the septic tank; from what I've researched the risk of harm to the septic tank has been confirmed for nursing homes and hospitals using onsite wastewater treatment systems. I'd be a surprise if the level of antibiotics from 2 adults,diluted by other normal wastewater usage, would be a problem.

Searching InspectApedia for "antibiotics in the septic system" finds two articles, the key one DRUGS INTO the SEPTIC TANK? (this article) and also CHEMICALS to KEEP OUT OF SEPTICS where we indicate that normal household use of antibiotics should not be an issue at a private septic system.

Below I cite confirming research; you'll see that the titles or abstracts of these articles generally point to large volume operations such as hospitals and nursing homes or community wastewater streams.

Question: effects of chemotherapy chemicals on the septic drainfield

(Aug 28, 2014) Karen said:
Can the urine from a radiation treatment patient flushed into septic tank cause grass in drain field to turn brown?

This question was asked originally at CHEMICALS to KEEP OUT OF SEPTICS

Reply:

Karen,

Urine, even containing drugs or radioactive medications, from an individual, drained into a private septic system would be too small a quantity to produce high concentrations of anything that would be likely to explain grass dying over a drainfield.

I agree that if stuff flushed down drains makes it into the septic tank and IF the septic tank baffles are intact, the items may remain in the tank. But there's a good chance of clog-ups right at the tank inlet baffle - worth inspecting there.

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

Don't Flush Articles for Sewage Grinder Pumps, Toilets, Septic Systems, Drains

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Continue reading at GARBAGE GRINDERS vs SEPTICS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see TOILETS, DON'T FLUSH LIST

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