Cradle-to-cradle stewardship of drugs for minimizing their environmental disposition while promoting human health. II. Drug disposal, waste reduction, and future directions

Environ Health Perspect. 2003 May;111(5):775-85. doi: 10.1289/ehp.5948.


Since the 1980s, the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) as trace environmental pollutants, originating primarily from consumer use and actions rather than manufacturer effluents, continues to become more firmly established. The growing, worldwide importance of freshwater resources underscores the need for ensuring that any aggregate or cumulative impacts on (or from) water supplies are minimized. Despite a paucity of effects data from long-term, simultaneous exposure at low doses to multiple xenobiotics (particularly non-target-organism exposure to PPCPs), a wide range of proactive actions could be implemented for reducing or minimizing the introduction of PPCPs to the environment. Most of these actions fall under what could be envisioned as a holistic stewardship program--overseen by the health care industry and consumers alike. Significantly, such a stewardship program would benefit not just the environment--additional, collateral benefits could automatically accrue, including the lessening of medication expense for the consumer and improving patient health and consumer safety. In this article (the second of two parts describing the "green pharmacy") I focus on those actions and activities tied more closely to the end user (e.g., the patient) and issues associated with drug disposal/recycling that could prove useful in minimizing the environmental disposition of PPCPs. I also outline some recommendations and suggestions for further research and pose some considerations regarding the future. In this mini-monograph I attempt to capture cohesively for the first time the wide spectrum of actions available for minimizing the release of PPCPs to the environment. A major objective is to generate an active dialog or debate across the many disciplines that must become actively involved to design and implement a successful approach to life-cycle stewardship of PPCPs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Community Participation
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Cosmetics*
  • Drug Industry
  • Environment*
  • Environmental Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations*
  • Policy Making
  • Public Health*
  • Refuse Disposal
  • Safety
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid


  • Cosmetics
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations