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EpiPens: Safe disposal

Best practices for EpiPen users

To those with allergies, EpiPens are lifesaving tools that they cannot be without. People with severe allergies often have several of these epinephrine auto injectors, keeping one at home, one in their car and one on their person at all times to ensure they are never caught in a dangerous situation and go into anaphylactic shock. As common as these devices are, many folks aren’t aware that improper disposal can pose a risk to others and the environment.
Here’s a quick look at what you need to know:

What’s inside?

EpiPens are equipped with an injector that delivers epinephrine into the body. Once injected, the epinephrine combats the severe allergic reaction by working to reverse the symptoms of anaphylactic shock like constricted airways and plummeting blood pressure. The hormone immediately raises the body’s heart-rate and relaxes the muscles of the airways to help the victim breathe better.

While this powerful medicine can save people’s lives, it can also be extremely dangerous to those who accidentally come in contact with it. In addition to the risks of epinephrine entering the body, the sharp needle on the device can cause injury and if thrown into the garbage, can end up in a landfill where it leaches into the groundwater.  Additionally, just because an EpiPen has been discarded doesn’t mean there’s no medicine left in it. There are several reasons that an EpiPen may be discarded including:

  • The device has reached its expiration date
  • It has been used to treat an allergic reaction
  • The EpiPen was exposed to extreme temperatures and is no longer usable
  • The device is damaged or inoperable

How to dispose of your EpiPen

First of all, it’s important to stay on top on your EpiPen prescription so that you are never caught in a situation where you need it and it has expired. The medicine in EpiPens only stays fresh for one year, so be sure you mark your calendar to ensure you refill your prescription before it expires. If you’ve used it, it has expired or was left in a hot car, it’s time for a replacement and to dispose of it safely. The first thing to do is to make sure it is inside its protective case. Even if you have used it, the needle should never be exposed.
Here are some options for safe disposal:

  • Contact your doctor’s office and inquire if they accept used or expired EpiPens. Medical facilities have their own medical waste disposal providers and may be able to take your device and discard it with their own waste.
  • Call your pharmacy and ask if they will accept it. Often times they will allow customers to bring in their used or expired auto-injectors.
  • Get in touch with your local health department agency, they may be able to direct you to the nearest medical waste drop-off site where you can safely dispose of your EpiPen.

Just like all medical waste, it is critical to ensure safe and proper disposal of EpiPens to reduce risk of injury, illness and death. If you, a loved one or family member has been prescribed this device, be sure to follow the steps outlined here to reduce the chance of accidental exposure.

For all medical waste disposal needs, All Points Medical Waste provides an array of services throughout Martin, St. Lucie, Palm Beach and Broward Counties. Give us a call at 772.600.4885 to find out more about how we can serve you.

Dawn Connelly

Dawn Connelly

Dawn is the vice president of All Points Medical Waste. All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated medical waste disposal and compliance company that has been serving the Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches, and surrounding areas since 1994.
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