Officer Jamie Free inspects the collection bin for medications in the lobby at the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office recently. Photo by David Grace.
BLOUNTVILLE — Unwanted medications now have their own special place at the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and Tennessee Department of Health have placed a collection bin for old medications at the sheriff’s department and at nearly 40 other locations across the state.
“This joint effort with local law enforcement agencies and the Department of Health is important to educate citizens on the appropriate disposal of pharmaceuticals, while increasing the number of locations for them to do so,” TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau said in a prepared release. “We need to make Tennessee’s citizens aware that throwing medication away with the household garbage or flushing it is not a safe method of disposal. These additional permanent collection drop-off boxes offer Tennesseans a safe and viable disposal option to keep drugs out of our water and off the streets.”
As part of TDEC’s new program, permanent collection bin recipients were chosen from applications submitted by local law enforcement agencies in return for their commitment to secure and monitor the bins. TDEC also will require a monthly report on the total of pounds collected.
“We are pleased to partner with TDEC to provide more safe places for disposal of unwanted medications that all too often have been the cause of harm from poisoning to abuse to death,” Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner said of the initiative. “Through these efforts and the efforts of our sister agency, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, there are now convenient places across our state where average citizens can be a part of the solution to this vexing challenge.”
TDEC sponsors both the new permanent collection sites and temporary collection events throughout the year.
For communities interested in becoming a permanent drop-off location, contact Kathy Glapa in TDEC’s Office of Sustainable Practices at 615-253-8780 or Kathy.Glapa@tn.gov? . For more information about the Pharmaceutical Collection Program, including a complete list of participating counties and acceptable or non-acceptable items, go towww.tn.gov/environ? ment/osp/gi/unwantedrx? .
TDEC points out nearly 90 percent of Americans improperly dispose of outdated or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
The practice of flushing drugs is being questioned because of concerns about trace levels of drug residues found in surface water, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
But FDA noted the main way drug residues enter water systems is by people taking medications and then naturally passing them through their bodies.
Still, the FDA added that when a drug contains instructions to flush it down the toilet, it’s because the agency working with the manufacturer has determined this method to be the most appropriate route of disposal presenting the least safety risk.