UPDATE: Most unused medications are not disposed of properly - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Most unused medications are not disposed of properly

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A study by the University of Wisconsin Extension says only two percent of expired medications are properly disposed of in Wisconsin.  But the good news for Dane County residents is that collections here are way up in recent years.

Many medications are simply thrown out or flushed down the toilet when the expire.

"If these unwanted medications get out into the environment, most likely they end up in surface water," said Joe Van Rossum, Recycling and Hazardous Waste Specialist with UW Extension.  "There they can cause harm to the animals or plants that may be living in the water and have the potential to have some human health impacts."

The direct impact to human health is caused by medications that aren't disposed of at all, but abused by people.

"Drug poisoning is now Dane County's number one cause of injury or death," said Cheryl Wittke of Safe Communities, a Dane County non-profit group devoted to safety.

"And about one-third of medication goes unused," said Van Rossum.

That equals an estimated 4.4 million pounds.

In 2010, medication take-back programs collected less than 94 thousand pounds statewide, or just two percent of the total that goes unused.

"We're just kind of scratching the surface on what's out there," said Van Rossum.

But the story could be changing. In the last 18 months, Safe Communities has increased its number of medication drop off locations from two to eleven, with a twelfth slated for this year.

"Its lot of different organizations that have come together to promote this collection, because they see the dangers of having these medications around and also the fact that its environmentally so much more important to dispose of them properly," said Wittke.

Wittke says Dane County contributes $40 thousand per year towards the program and law enforcement takes care of the actual disposal.

"For the most part, the cost of these programs have been borne by local units of government and tax dollars," said Van Rossum.

"There needs to be more funding and also more stewardship on the part of pharmaceutical companies and again, that's emerging," said Wittke.

You can find a list of the medication drop-off locations in Dane County by clicking here.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- It seems most unused prescription drugs are not being disposed of properly in Wisconsin. 

A new report is out from the University of Wisconsin Extension and the nonprofit Product Stewardship Institute. It states that only about two percent of unused prescription drugs in the Badger State are safely discarded.

Furthermore, it reveals that most old medicines are thrown in the trash or flushed down toilets, where they can get into public water systems.

27 News' Greg Neumann will have more on 27 News at 5 and 6 tonight.

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