Health board adopts rules to encourage medicine disposal

The Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health took a stand against the potential dangers lurking in the home medicine cabinet. In a unanimous vote, board members adopted a comprehensive medicine return regulation at their Dec. 7 meeting. The regulation expands options for the safe, convenient, and environmentally friendly disposal of prescription medicines.

“Harmful medicines can easily find their way from the medicine cabinet into the wrong hands or into the environment,” said Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH, director of health at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “The regulation protects people and the environment and prevents overdoses and addiction,” Chen said.

In 2015, a majority of heroin users surveyed in Pierce County said they were first hooked on opioid medicines like those found in home medicine cabinets, according to the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. Heroin later became their drug of choice because it helped them achieve a similar high to medicines like Percocet and Vicodin. Heroin is also cheaper.

Feedback from the community influenced the Health Department in the development of this regulation. The Department considered testimony from the public gathered at meetings and written comments.

The new regulation will begin to take effect in the fall of 2017. To give residents greater convenience, the regulation will:

Expand medicine drop box locations to more places such as pharmacies, hospitals, and police stations.

Add an option for some residents to send unused medicine by mail to a disposal site for free.

Use funding from the pharmaceutical industry to run the program.

These options will add to the 21 drop box locations where residents can get rid of most unwanted or unused prescription and non-prescription medicine.

Learn more about the safe and environmentally friendly disposal of unwanted medicines online:

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. We are one of only 163 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards.

Health Department investigates possible mumps outbreak in Pierce County

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is investigating four probable cases of mumps in Pierce County, all associated with an outbreak in south King County.

“Public health is essential to address disease outbreaks, especially those that cross county boundaries,” said Nigel Turner, communicable disease division director at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “We coordinate with partner agencies to protect the health of all people in the affected area,” Turner said.

Mumps is a highly contagious viral illness. An infected person can spread it through face-to-face contact by coughing, sneezing, or spraying saliva while talking. It can also spread by shared cups and eating utensils.

Mumps are best known for causing puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw, the result of swollen salivary glands. The symptoms are fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite.

Meningitis and encephalitis are rare complications of mumps.

Immunization is the most effective way to prevent mumps. Everyone should make sure they are up to date on their measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR). Other ways to protect yourself:

  • Avoid contact with anyone infected with mumps.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Don’t share cups and eating utensils.

The Health Department is reminding Pierce County school districts of steps to control a mumps outbreak. If an outbreak occurred in a school setting, the Health Department would recommend the district exclude unimmunized students from school to minimize further exposure.

Find more resources about mumps online at:

– Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department