Don’t Flush Medicines Down the Toilet

Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
Contact: Merni Fitzgerald, Director of Public Affairs
703-324-3187, TTY 711, Fax 703-324-2010
Media Pager: 703-324-NEWS (6397)

March 19, 2008

Don’t Flush Medicines Down the Toilet

Fairfax County officials recommend that residents do not flush unused medicines down the toilet — unless directed by the label. This advice applies to both prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Instead residents are advised to throw unwanted medicines in the trash. This action will help to keep them out of rivers and streams.

Visit for additional steps for disposing of drugs to prevent their misuse or accidental ingestion.

Trace amounts of common drugs have been found in the region’s water supply, according to recent media reports. These amounts are in the parts per trillion. For comparison, one part per trillion is equal to one second in 32,000 years.

There is no proof that small amounts of medicines in the water can cause immediate harm to humans. However, it isn’t known whether low levels of medicines can cause long-term health effects. Scientists are just beginning to study this issue, and there are currently no state or federal standards for medicines in the water.

Fairfax County’s wastewater treatment plant uses advanced technologies that screen out some of these medicines. Tap water is also treated with advanced processes.

Last year, county officials asked the state to more closely study the issue. At the federal level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also investigating.

For more information about the recommendation not to flush medicines, call the Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs at 703-324-3187, TTY 711. To learn how Fairfax Water treats drinking water, visit or call 703-698-5600, TTY 711.


Fairfax County is committed to nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in all county programs, services and activities. To request this information in an alternate format, call the Office of Public Affairs at 703-324-3187, TTY 711.

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