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PA drug take-back initiative will protect fish

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An initiative by Gov. Tom Corbett to safely dispose of unused and expired prescription and over-the-counter medicine also will improve the health of fish, says the executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC).

“Research shows that once prescription drugs and other medicines end up in our waterways, they are being absorbed by fish,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “Low doses of these drugs can ultimately harm fish.”

“For example, we have seen a greater frequency of an intersex condition in smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River, with males showing signs of eggs in their reproductive systems and having a protein in their systems that should only occur in females,” he said. “We have also found sores and lesions on fish, which may be due to the exposure of these fish to the unintended consequences of these drugs.”

“We have always been told to flush our expired medicines down the toilet or wash them down the drain, but our wastewater treatment plants aren’t designed to remove them before they get into a nearby stream,” added Arway. “The MedReturn program now provides us with a much better and safer disposal option.”

“We fully support the governor’s initiative and encourage all Pennsylvanians to properly dispose of their unused or expired medicines,” he said. “This improves overall water quality and in turn protects the health of our Commonwealth’s fisheries.”

This past Monday, Gov. Corbett launched another piece of his Healthy Pennsylvania plan, a permanent statewide drug take-back program that will provide up to 250 secure medicine return boxes throughout Pennsylvania. The new MedReturn boxes, installed in 29 Pennsylvania counties, allow individuals to dispose of unused and expired prescription and over-the-counter medication safely and anonymously.

To find a MedReturn box in your area, click here (pdf).

List of MedReturn boxes located in Lehigh County:

Allentown Police Dept. Substation, 1005 W. Hamilton Street, Allentown, Chief Joseph Hanna (610)437-7753

Bethlehem Police Dept., 10 East Church Street, Bethlehem, Chief Craig Finnerty (610)865-7150

Emmaus Police Dept., 400 Jubilee Street, Emmaus, Chief David Faust (610)967-3113

Slatington Police Dept., 125 S. Walnut Street, Slatington, Chief David Rachman (610)767-1846

Whitehall Twp. Police Dept., 3731 Lehigh Street, Whitehall, Chief Linda Kulp (610)437-3042

Upper Saucon Twp. Police Dept., 5500 Camp Meeting Road, Center Valley, Chief Robert Coyle (610)282-3064

South Whitehall Twp. Police Dept., 4444 Walbert Avenue, Allentown, Chief Thomas Toth (610)398-0337

Upper Macungie Twp. Police Dept., 37 Grim Road, Breinigsville, Chief Edgardo Colon (484)661-5911

Catasauqua Police Dept., 118 Bridge Street, Catasauqua, Chief Douglas Kish (610)264-0577

Salisbury Township Police Dept., 3000 S. Pike Avenue, Allentown, Chief Allen W. Stiles (610)398-0337

Preparing items for disposal at a Take-Back Box location:

All pharmaceutical drugs that are being disposed of need to be in a sealed container such as the original bottle or a zip-lock bag. They may not be disposed of loosely.

Liquid pharmaceuticals should remain in the original container.

Personal information should be removed or blotted out with a permanent marker.

Items Accepted

Prescription and over-the-counter solid medications, tablets and capsules, liquid medications, inhalers, creams, ointments, nasal sprays, and pet medicines.

Items NOT Accepted

Intravenous solutions, injectables and needles.

Please check with your drop off location for a complete list of items accepted or not accepted.

Also a state transportation funding bill signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett on Nov. 25 benefits the PFBC by directing the portion of the oil company franchise tax attributable to motorboat fuel to the agency. For the first five fiscal years, the PFBC must use the funding on high-hazard dam projects. Beginning in FY 2018-19, the money can be used for general boating purposes.

Based on the gallons of fuel reported as being used by boaters in 2012 and the various formulas in the bill, the PFBC estimates that it will receive the following amounts: 2013-14 - $3.8 million; 2014-15 - $4.5 million; 2015-16 - $5.1 million; 2016-17 - $5.8 million; 2017-18 and thereafter - $6.4 million.

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