What are PPCPs? 

PPCPs stand for Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products. They include:

  • Prescription and over-the-counter drugs
  • Veterinary drugs
  • Fragrances
  • Cosmetics
  • Sun-screen products
  • Diagnostic agents
  • Nutraceuticals (e.g., vitamins)

Last year in Utah more people died of accidental overdoses of prescription drugs than of automobile accidents.

Why care?


Human Health

Pharmaceuticals (including antibiotics, antidepressants and sex hormones) have been found in at least 41 million American's drinking water supplies. Since the concentration levels of these substances are so low (generally parts per trillion), they are far below prescription dosages.  However, there is growing concern that these chemicals could contribute to health problems. Also, many pharmaceuticals sold on the streets or consumed by young people come from home medicine cabinets. Proper disposal of PPCPs can prevent misuse of pharmaceuticals.

Environmental Health

While PPCPs may have an impact on human health, they have a much greater impact on fish and other aquatic wildlife.  These organisms are more susceptible to problems from PPCPs because they have continual exposures, multi-generational exposures, and exposure to higher concentrations of PPCPs in untreated water.

Biological impacts on wildlife include:

  • feminization of male fish or masculinization of female fish
  • delayed sexual development in fish
  • delayed metamorphosis in frogs
  • embryo mortality
  • abnormal hormone levels
  • impaired reproductive systems and immune systems
  • structural and neurological damage

For more information on the environmental impacts from PPCPs, visit or

Sources of PPCPs

PPCPs get into our water from many different sources.  These include:

  • pharmaceutical industries
  • hospitals
  • medical facilities
  • households
  • veterinary drug use (especially antibiotics and steroids)
  • agricultural areas

How to properly dispose of PPCPs

Don't flush PPCPs down
the toilet!

More information on how to dispose of prescription drugs

  • Find a permanent disposal bin near you
  • Attend a "Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet" event near you (generally in April and October)

If the above options are not available safely dispose of PPCPs in your household by

  1.     Removing the prescription label
  2.     Crushing up the pills
  3.     Mixing the PPCPs with undesirables such as kitty litter or coffee grounds
  4.     Sealing in a plastic bag
  5.     Taking it out on the day trash is picked up   




 Other Resources


Websites Articles Powerpoints pdfs

AP: Drugs found in drinking water (USA TODAY)

Proper Medication Disposal Proper Medication Disposal
Antibiotics in the Environment (Colorado State Cooperative Extension) Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water Colorado State Study Finds Antibiotics used for Growth, Prevention of Diseases in Food Animals can make their way into Waterways (Colorado State University) Impact of EDCs on Trout in an Effluent Dominated Stream Utah waterways test positive for prescription drugs (KSL)
2009 brought record hauls of expired drugs in some states (USA TODAY)