More and more communities across the country are encountering a commonly overlooked public health and safety issue: improper needle and sharps disposal.
“Sharps” is a medical term for devices with sharps points or edges that can puncture or cut skin. Examples of sharps are needles, syringes, lancets, auto injectors, epinephrine and insulin pens, infusion sets, and connection needles/sets.
The group of people who are put in the most danger by improper sharps disposal are environmental service workers – janitors, housekeepers, waste and recycling workers and sewage treatment workers. When a needle is tossed directly into the trash, it has the potential to stick whoever removes that trash. So the janitor may get stuck, the garbage-man may get stuck, and the waste-worker at the waste facility could get stuck. It is also possible for an animal to get to the needle or for it to tear through a trash bag. Any of these scenarios may ultimately expose the needle to neighbors and children. Such injuries cost thousands of dollars in medical testing and cause great stress on victims.
Sharps that are placed in the recycling can also