3 min read
A bunch of prescription drug bottles fill up the frame.

What is SerPIE

  • SerPIE is the acronym for Synergistic Efforts to Reduce Pharmaceutical Impacts on the Environment
  • The program offers a one-health approach to minimizing environmental impacts.
  • SerPIE highlights the connection between pharmaceutical drugs, personal care products, and pollution by tackling tough topics like the opioid crisis and giving the public information to safeguard their home and the environment.


  • To improve literacy concerning local environmental health issues by offering resources that enable citizens to safeguard their homes and the environment from PPCPs
  • To accentuate the benefits of using safe, effective methods to dispose of expired and unwanted pharmaceuticals.

 Activities and Components

  • Environmental Education Workshops
  • National Drug Take‐Back Drives
  • Web‐based Repository (WWR)
  • Research‐based data and information
  • Science‐oriented Video Collection
  • Training Forums for Extension Personnel
  • SerPIE_ASEMP Mentorship Program
  • Lock Your Meds Campaign

What is the problem?

  • Pollution of soil and water resources by pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) is a serious environmental issue.
  • PPCPs are described as any product used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons or used by agribusiness to enhance the growth or health of livestock.
  • PPCPs such as aspirin, caffeine, and nicotine were discovered in wastewater treatment plants more than 20 years ago. Since then, PPCPs have been detected in surface and groundwater, soils, biosolids, and drinking water worldwide.
  • Individuals and animals are largely responsible for PPCPs entering the environment through use, excretion, and improper disposal of unwanted medications via flushing or trash.
  • In 2008, the Associated Press revealed that concentrations of pharmaceutical drugs were found in the drinking water supply of nearly 41 million Americans.
  • Although the human impacts of pharmaceuticals in the environment (PIE) are inconclusive, research studies indicate that outreach programs are needed to address PIE issues.
  • Unless more action is taken, more and more PPCPs will pollute the environment and will continue to be stockpiled in homes.

*References are available upon request.


Scientist takes water samples from stream.

What’s in your soil and water?

Types of PPCPs

  • Prescription drugs
  • Over‐the‐counter drugs
  • Therapeutic drugs
  • Veterinary drugs
  • Nutraceuticals (dietary supplements)
  • Fragrances
  • Cosmetics
  • Sun‐screen products
  • Diagnostic agents

Source of PPCPs

  • Agribusiness
  • Human activity
  • Residue from manufacturing pharmaceutical drugs
  • Residue from hospitals
  • Illicit drugs
  • Veterinary drug use (i.e., antibiotics and steroids)

Impact of PPCPs

  • Feminization and behavior changes in fish species
  • Induced reproduction in shellfish
  • Accumulation in crop roots, leaves and stems (i.e., soybeans)
  • Alteration of the biological activity of human cells
  • Impacts on insect physiology
  • Antibacterial resistance in soil microbes
  • An adverse population‐level response in not‐target wildlife (i.e., vultures)

A group of seven diverse high schools students smile for the camera: 53% of people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends and family. Be Aware. Don't Share. Lock Your Meds. www.lockyourmeds.org/pledge

What can I do to help?

The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that approximately 54 million people have used medication for nonmedical purposes in their lifetime. Many of these drugs are obtained from medical cabinets in the homes of friends and relatives.

“Be apart of the solution, not the problem!”Apply Greendocvick’s (2009) Green Strategies

Responsible Prescribing

  • Prescribe what is needed in small quantities
  • Provide education on proper disposal practices
  • Prescribe beginner or starter packs of medicine
  • Be familiar with drug eco‐toxicities

Responsible Disposal

  • Store medicine away from children and pets
  • Don’t flush or throw medicine away
  • Utilize the National Drug Take‐Back Program
  • Utilize local pharmacy Take‐Away Programs

Responsible Consumption

  • Don’t share or sell medicine
  • Use medicine as directed by your physician
  • Purchase medicine in smaller quantities
  • Lock your medicine in a secure cabinet

For additional disposal methods visit: www.epa.gov/ppcp http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html

Contact Us

State Office

Alabama A&M University

(Madison County & Statewide)
Dr. Karnita Garner
Office: (256) 372-8331
Email: kfg0003@aces.edu

Urban Centers

Dale and Houston Counties

Phillip Carter
Office: (256) 794-4108
Email: phillc2@aces.edu

Elmore, Autauga and Montgomery Counties

Roosevelt Robinson
Office: (256) 270-4133
Email: robinrl@aces.edu

Mobile and Baldwin Counties

Jack LeCroy
Office: (251) 574-8445
Email: jml0003@aces.edu

Morgan and Lawrence Counties

Allyson Shabel
Office: (256) 974-2464
Email: ams0137@aces.edu


Alabama Extension. More in our cities

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