Tonnes of unwanted prescription drugs flushed away or thrown out by Scots every year could be contaminating the water supply and entering the food chain, scientists conducting a three-year study have warned.
Now they have urged the Scottish Executive to conduct a full examination of the water system and ensure the public know how to dispose of unused medicines safely.
Joe Murray and Rosemary Fernand from Glasgow Caledonian University questioned 1200 Scots and found only 14% had ever returned unwanted products to pharmacies.
The vast majority said they disposed of old medicines down the toilet or in the bin, unaware it could threaten human and animal health by contaminating groundwater – which could be used as drinking water – or via the food chain from contaminated fish stocks.
The latest Executive figures place the amount of unwanted medicines returned to chemists by the public at 47 tonnes a year. However, the researchers believe this is only “the tip of the iceberg”, with their questionnaire highlighting the public’s lack of awareness.