By Kimberly Livingston

Special to the Herald Review

It’s that time of year again when we normally take on cleaning projects like washing windows, cleaning carpets and power washing decks. I’m asking you to also add the medicine cabinet to your list of “to do’s”. Medicine cabinets need to be cleaned out regularly of any old or unwanted drugs.

To properly and safely dispose of unwanted medications, there are a few options.

1. All law enforcement offices in Osceola and Mecosta counties have permanent disposal boxes in their lobbies specifically designated for medications. Citizens can safely dispose of any pill medication, including pet medications, anytime the lobby is open. Blacken out personal information and drop the bottle into the collection box.

2. Once a year Osceola and Mecosta counties have a community household hazardous waste collection day. Community members may also safely dispose of medications here too. A list of local HHW programs can be found by calling Mecosta and Osceola-Lake Conservation Districts.

3. Mecosta County Medical Center periodically throughout the year will host a Yellow Jug Old Drugs collection program.

It is strongly recommended to NOT flush medications nor throw them in the garbage. Discarding medications in the household garbage can lead to inadvertent access by children and animals. While flushing medicine down the toilet does prevent the misuse of these drugs, the practice can cause other problems. Specifically, when medicines are flushed down a toilet, they usually go to one of two places, a septic tank or through a series of sanitary sewers into a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP).

Medications can harm or destroy the beneficial bacteria present in a septic tank or WWTP that are responsible for breaking down waste thus causing septic tanks to fail. In the WWTP, many medications are not captured or are only partially captured during a treatment process resulting in medications passing through intact. Most municipal treatment plants are not engineered for pharmaceutical removal and these substances are then released into nearby lakes, rivers or ground water. www.michigan.gov/deq

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is having a National Take Back Day on Saturday April 27. The DEA will visit all participating law enforcement agencies and pick up unwanted medications that have been collected and dispose of them by burning them in a high heat incinerator. In the past 3 years Mecosta and Osceola counties have been able to get rid of hundreds of pounds of old drugs, keeping our children and environment safe. www.dea.gov

As always, monitor current medications, and secure them is a lock box or drawer. More information on prescription drug abuse can be found at www.drugfreenorthernmichigan.com