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July 15, 2015 - 3:21pm

The Dos and Don'ts of disposing of 'sharps'

posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, public health column.

Press release from Genesee – Orleans Public Health Education Team of Kristine Voos, CHES, Nola Goodrich-Kresse, MCHES:

The Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming County Health departments are encouraging county residents to “Think Health.” Taking time to think about your health and taking positive health steps will lead to healthier outcomes. Learning something new every day is one way to think health.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are about 9 million Americans who use needles or other sharps to manage their medical conditions.  “Sharps” are a medical term for devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut skin. For example, people with diabetes use needles to inject insulin and use lancets to test their blood glucose. In addition, injection drug users use needles. Heroin and other inject-able street drugs are dangerous and may be injected.

The popularity of injecting illicit drugs has increased dramatically in recent years. Recent intelligence has been received that heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs are also being sold with deadly additives.

Safe disposal of sharps is critically important to optimize health, safety, and protection of the environment. The best way to ensure that people are protected from potential injury and spread of infections due to needle sticks is to dispose of them properly. The most common infections are Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Safe sharps disposal is important whether you are at home, at work, at school, traveling, or in other public places such as hotels, parks, and restaurants. If you see sharps on the ground do not pick them up. Contact your local law enforcement agency for further instructions. 

The following are DOs and DON’Ts of proper sharps disposal:

DO:

  • Immediately place used needles/other sharps in a FDA-cleared sharps disposal container to reduce the risk of needle sticks, cuts or punctures from loose sharps.  If one isn’t available, use a heavy-duty plastic household container, such as a laundry detergent container, as an alternative. All sharps containers need to be of a heavy-duty plastic, able to close with a tight-fitting/puncture proof lid, upright and stable during use, leak-resistant and properly labeled;
  • Be prepared – Carry a portable sharps disposal container for travel;
  • Ask your health care provider, local hospital, pharmacist or veterinarian where you can obtain low-cost FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers;
  • Keep all needles and other sharps, as well as disposal containers out of reach of children and pets;
  • Dispose of all contents of disposal containers at drop-off locations in your county.

DON’T:

  • Do not throw needles and other sharps into the trash;
  • Do not flush needles and other sharps down the toilet;
  • Do not put needles and other sharps in your recycling bin – they are not recyclable;
  • Do not try to remove, bend, break or recap needles used by another person.  This can lead to accidental needle sticks, which may cause serious infections;
  • Do not attempt to remove the needle without a needle clipper device because the needles could fall, fly off, or get lost and injure someone. Needle clippers make syringes unusable by clipping off the needle. These clippers may be used for needle disposal of small syringes (such as those used for insulin), but not clipping lancets. After the needle clipper clips off the needle from the syringe, the needle is automatically and safely retained within the clipper.

In New York State (NYS) there is a Safe Sharps Collection Program. All hospitals and nursing homes in NYS are mandated by law to accept home-generated sharps as free community service through their sharps collection programs. In addition, pharmacies, health clinics, community-based organizations/ mobile van programs, public transportation facilities, housing projects, police stations, waste transfer stations and other venues have become settings for safe sharps disposal. Below are drop-off locations in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties. *Before visiting, contact the site you are interested in to confirm service and drop-off details.

Genesee:

  1. Batavia Health Care Center, 585-343-1300
  2. Genesee County Nursing Home, 585-344-0584, ext. 2146
  3. United Memorial Medical Center, 585-344-5370
  4. NYS Veterans Home, 585-345-2076
  5. Le Roy Village Green, 585-768-2561

Orleans:

  1. Orleans Community Health, 585-798-2000
  2. The Villages of Orleans Health & Rehabilitation Center, 585-589-5637

Wyoming:

  1. Wyoming County Community Hospital, 585-786-8940 x4528
  2. East Side Nursing Home, 585-786-8151

For more information on proper sharps disposal and a print-friendly guide visit: http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/HomeHealthandConsumer/ConsumerProducts/ucm263274.htm

NYS Safe Sharps Collection Program:

http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/HomeHealthandConsumer/ConsumerProducts/ucm263274.htm

For more information about Health Department services, use the contact information below.

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