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Washington Hospital's Network of Free, Convenient Medication Drop-Off Sites Helps Keep the Environment Healthy

For more than a decade, it’s been known that flushing unused medications down the drain or toilet is bad for the environment. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals, so drugs that are flushed away can end up in the water system, including San Francisco Bay.

Studies show exposure to even low levels of drugs affects fish and other aquatic species by interfering with their growth and reproduction. Now, with improved chemical analysis technology, we can detect even trace amounts of pharmaceuticals that present potential impacts to fish and wildlife in our rivers, bays and oceans.

As early as 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey tested the water in 139 streams in 30 states. It found that 80 percent contained measurable concentrations of prescription and non-prescription drugs, steroids and reproductive hormones. Later, an Associated Press investigation revealed Americans were flushing away more than 250 million pounds of pills each year.

Since that time, experts have strongly advised that, due to the potential environmental consequences, you should not dispose of unused medication down the drain or toilet. This includes any prescription or non-prescription substances intended to be swallowed, inhaled, injected, applied to the skin or eyes, or otherwise absorbed by any area of the body.

As part of its commitment to a healthy community, Washington Hospital Healthcare System has partnered with the Union Sanitary District to make it easier for local residents to follow this imperative. The System has five drop-off sites located throughout the community, giving people a free, convenient, safe and environmentally sound way to dispose of old medications.

“We are very passionate about this issue,” said Paul Kelley, manager of Washington Hospital’s Biomedical Engineering Department and head of its successful Green Team. “Since 2008, with the enthusiastic support of our CEO Nancy Farber, we’ve been helping people dispose of medications properly.”

Permanent drop-off sites are available at the following locations:

  • Washington Hospital, Main Lobby, 2000 Mowry Avenue, Fremont
  • Washington Hospital Community Health Resource Library, 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West), Fremont
  • Washington Township Medical Foundation (WTMF) at Nakamura Clinic, 33077 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
  • WTMF at Newark, 6236 Thornton Avenue, Newark
  • WTMF at Warm Springs, 46690 Mohave Drive, Fremont

If you are dropping off unused pills or capsules, take them out of the container and leave the medication in the drop-off receptacle. The System cannot be responsible for patient information on the bottle. You can recycle the empty containers at home as you normally do with glass or plastic. If you have unused cough medicines, creams or other liquids, leave them in their containers when you drop them off.

Recently, at a Safe Drug Disposal Rally held by the Alameda County MEDS Coalition, Washington Hospital Healthcare System received commendations from County Supervisor Nate Miley, recognizing five of its drop-off sites. Washington Hospital and its Community Health Resource Library, as well as three of the WTMF locations, were praised for contributing to the safety of children, families and the environment. At the rally, Washington Hospital was also recognized for educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.

The second largest service of its type in Alameda County, Washington Hospital Healthcare System’s Unused Medication Drop-Off program collects more than 200 pounds of medication each month, or a total of 2,500 pounds annually. Since the program began more than five years ago, it has collected 10,311 pounds of unused medication. Collected medications are picked up by a service hired by Union Sanitary District to haul the waste away for incineration.

Learn more.

For more information about Washington Hospital Healthcare System’s Unused Medication Drop-Off program or its Green Initiative, go to and For more information about the environmental impact of flushing medications or for facts about recycling, visit or