Daily Iowan: UI Grad Student Makes Drug Drop-off Possible

Friday, September 25, 2009

Daily Iowan
Iowa City, IA


Iowa City officials had been considering a prescription drug drop-off for more than a year. But it took UI graduate student Jeremy Bril to make it happen.

The 24-year-old, studying environmental engineering and science, acted as the communicator for the city, knowing exactly who needed to be contacted to put the drop-off event in motion.

The first prescription drug drop-off event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday in the Nest parking lot at Sycamore Mall.

“Many partnerships need to be formed to sponsor this kind of event,” Bril said. “Local pharmacists need to be contacted to dismantle the drugs, as well as police to transport the drugs to the incineration facility.”

All of these crucial relationships were missing in order to sponsor the event hosted by ECO-Iowa City, a grant-funded initiative to improve environmental sustainablitiy in Iowa City.

“The Iowa City landfill talked about doing this program for awhile,” said Iowa City recycling coordinator Jen Jordan. “The pieces finally fell together perfectly. Jeremy made it happen because he had done this before.”

In the past, the city didn’t have the funds or information to host this type of event.

But such UI organizations as Engineers for a Sustainable World, of which Bril is an active member, and American Pharmacists Asssociation-Academy of Student Pharmacists helped make the event possible.

ECO-Iowa City members pushed for the event, hoping to provide the city’s residents with an opportunity to learn about the harmful effects associated with pharmaceuticals entering the water system.

“People tend to flush their old drugs down the toilet or throw them in the garbage,” said Iowa City information services coordinator Maeve Clark. “That is the exact wrong thing to do.”

Drugs that enter the water system have numerous harmful effects, Bril said. Medications entering the water can harm fish hormones and wipeout certain bacteria that live in water systems. These harmful effects can ruin the local ecosystem or be ingested by humans when drinking the city’s water, he said.

Furthermore, expired drugs in the household pose the opportunity of accidental ingestion by small children or pets, as well as easy access for teens.

“Teens are throwing more parties where they raid their parents medicine cabinets and swallow old pills, experimenting with alternative ways to get their highs,” Bril said. “It’s an increasing problem.”

All of these problems formed the reasons for the event, and feedback from local residents has been overwhelming, he said.

“Local pharmacies are pleased we are sponsoring this event,” Bril said. “People constantly ask what they should do with expired prescriptions. Now the pharmacies have an alternative response, other than don’t flush them.”

He said he is very optimistic about the success for the drop-off event.

“Iowa City has been very responsive to other ECO-Iowa City events; we are hoping for the same good turnout the other event have had,” he said.

In the long-term though, Bril said he hopes the potential success of the first drop-off event will result in a recurring annual or biannual event.

“We are just trying to raise awareness about the relatively harmful effects to the environment,” Bril said.