Drug disposal study approved

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s board voted Thursday to fund a survey asking what drugs Chicagoans are throwing away, and if they're doing so by flushing them down the toilet.

The University of Illinois-Chicago will be in charge of questioning area residents about what they do with their unused medications. The MWRD will use the results to determine how to best educate the public on responsible drug disposal methods.

The agency estimates the survey will take nine months to complete and cost approximately $150,000.

The U.S. Geological Survey studied 139 U.S. streams in 1999 and 2000 to determine drug levels in the water. Eighty percent of the streams had at least one pharmaceutical, hormone or other organic wastewater contaminant.

The health problems caused by water containing small levels of pharmaceuticals are unknown,says MWRD spokeswoman Jill Horist. The agency is interested in keeping levels low because researchers could identify health impacts in the future.