This year is the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. In 1970, about 10% of the total population of the United States participated in Earth Day activities. This year, organizers cited the World Health Organization’s (WHO) advice and recommendations and have discouraged large-in person events. April 22, 2020 will be the first Digital Earth Day and will include “virtual protests, social media campaigns, online teach-ins and more.

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Worldwide, landfills serve as the most common final destination for a wide range of business and consumer wastes discarded into the regular trash, including unwanted or expired medications5. Unfortunately, landfills are also one of the primary sources of contamination in ground waters and surface waters4. Once rainwater or other leaky wastes mix with the solid waste buried at landfills, a “leachate” liquid is created. When medications are disposed in the trash, they eventually contribute to this leachate, creating complex chemical cocktails that can end up in drinking water, rivers, and oceans alike, with the potential to cause serious public health and environmental issues5,7.

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Last updated on October 30, 2019

In 2008, public health officials were startled when water quality studies found that 46 million Americans had trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in their drinking water. They noted that many localities didn’t test drinking water for pharmaceutical residues, so even more people could potentially be affected. These findings led to calls for more testing, public education, and safer, more secure drug disposal options.


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