Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ongoing Environmental Concerns.....

I posted once before ( about the amount of trash we generated while Babygirl was on peritoneal dialysis.  And while we definitely are taking less to the curb, I can see many places where what we are doing is dangerous to the environment.

Most of the waste we generate is more ephemeral now.  Think about car emissions, tire disposal, and recycling our oil changes, for example.  We recycle her pill bottles.  We use a lot of cleaning products such as Clorox wipes that cannot be recycled, although we recycle the containers.  A lot of reusable products are not a good idea - sponges and sponge mops for one - because they can encourage the growth of germs that wouldn't hurt ME but that might break into Babygirl's weakened immune system.

But there are environmental dangers to her medications that are not readily apparent.

Several years ago I began reading about the sudden drop in the vulture population in India(  In a country where animals are considered sacred to some, there are large populations of wild cattle, dogs and other critters roaming loose.  They die where they die, and the vultures are a major part of the clean up process.  But suddenly, there are almost no vultures.  It turns out that diclofenac (an ibuprofen-like medication used to treat animal and human arthritis, sold here as Voltaren or Cataflam) was in the vultures' food stream, and it has led to their near extinction. 

What has this to do with Babygirl? 

First, think about where medications go AFTER you take them.  Lungs, kidney, either exhale, pee or poop out the leftovers, sometimes in their original form, sometimes in a metabolite.  This is true every time you drink a beer, go on penicillin or a diabetes medication, or an arthritis pill.  They get flushed, enter our water waste stream, and hopefully get purified back out. I confess, I'm not entirely sure how well that process works.  I've seen how the average septic system works.  All of EVERYTHING is filtered through the ground.

Second, Cellcept (one of Babygirl's anti-rejection medications) is specifically labeled with a warning that women of childbearing age should NOT handle the medication.  Not a problem for me, but I'm filling syringes with the stuff weekly, and making darned sure that there aren't any puddles of it on the counters for when my girls are visiting.  And this stuff is going down the toilet every time Babygirl uses the bathroom.  I don't rinse the empty bottles or syringes - they go straight into the trash, hopefully to avoid contaminating our water; but then, they end up in the landfill. 

 We won't even contemplate that Babygirl, at 13, IS of childbearing age. Here's a quote from the package insert:
"Use during pregnancy is associated with increased risks of first trimester pregnancy loss and congenital malformations. Females of reproductive potential (FRP) must be counseled regarding pregnancy prevention and planning."
Yeah.  We get to talk about THAT.  A LOT. 
Third, Cellcept is only ONE of her many medications.  Each has similar potential risks.
So.  Obviously we aren't planning on nobly letting Babygirl reject her kidney because we might get some mutant fish out there.  But DANG..... this is scary stuff.

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