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TDH, TDEC Promote Proper Disposal of Medication

Monday, March 18, 2013 | 04:48am

Poison Prevention Week is March 17-23, 2013

NASHVILLE – Deaths from poisoning are on the rise in Tennessee and are a leading cause of injury death in the state. Drug overdose is often the cause of poisoning deaths among Tennesseans. With these grim facts in mind, the Tennessee Department of Health is partnering with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to provide Tennesseans with increased opportunities to properly dispose of unused medication.

“In 2011, poisonings were the leading cause of injury death of Tennessee residents, with more people dying from poisoning than from motor vehicle accidents,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “The number of Tennesseans who died from drug overdoses has almost tripled in the past ten years, and we know the excess of unused medication contributes to the epidemic of prescription drug abuse and misuse in our state. This partnership with TDEC will help eliminate these excess medications in a safe, effective and legal way.”

TDH and TDEC will install an additional 50 new permanent secure collection bins for Tennessee residents to properly dispose of unused or unwanted medication through TDEC’s Pharmaceutical Collection Program. This partnership will bring the total of permanent collection bins to 83 across Tennessee. For a list of locations and items accepted in the current secure drop-off bins go to

“Many citizens simply don’t know that throwing medication away with the household garbage or flushing it is not the preferred way to dispose of it,” said TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau. “This joint effort is designed to educate citizens on the importance of appropriate disposal of pharmaceuticals and the key to this effort’s success has been the ongoing commitment of our local law enforcement partners who continue to secure and monitor these bins.”

National statistics suggest nearly 90 percent of Americans improperly dispose of outdated or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Unused drugs kept in medicine cabinets or tossed in the garbage can cause serious threats to human and environmental health. Drugs of concern include controlled and non-controlled prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter medications. Proper disposal of these drugs reduces avoidable poisonings of children and prevents intentional misuse of prescription drugs, especially by teenagers living in the home.

For medications stored in the home, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers steps parents can take to keep family members safe and protect children from accidental drug overdoses:
• Use safety latches or locks on drawers and cabinets where medications are kept.
• Call medicines by their correct names. Do not confuse children by calling medicine “candy.”
• Keep products in their original containers.
• Do not take medicine in front of small children. Children tend to copy adult behavior.
• Call the Poison Help Hotline immediately at 1-800-222-1222 if a child swallows a substance that is not food. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers tips for proper medication storage at

March 17-23, 2013 is National Poison Prevention Week, an observance created to promote national awareness about the risk of injury or death due to poisoning. To learn more visit

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit

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