Protecting yourself and others from used medical sharps is increasingly important and staff at PVH are working to educate the community on safe disposal. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, roughly 9 million Americans use needles or other sharps to manage their medical conditions at home. This amounts to more than 3 billion used needles and other sharps that must be disposed of outside health care settings each year.“Each year, thousands of Mainers use millions of syringes, pen needles and lancets or ‘sharps’ to control medical conditions like diabetes, arthritis and allergies,” states PVH Infection Prevention Practitioner Sherry McCafferty, RN. “Improper disposal puts you and your family, pets, and the general public all at risk for accidental and painful needle sticks that can lead to infection, tetanus and transmission of diseases.”
All used sharps, including needles, syringes, lancets, injectors and infusion sets, must be handled as if they carry germs or disease. Improperly discarded needles and other sharps can pose a health risk to the public and especially waste workers.
Jeff Page, maintenance worker at PVH, started this quality assurance project to help keep staff safe, but quickly realized this information could be useful to the community. Page states, “As someone who handles medical waste, I want to inform others on how to safely dispose of sharps. Anyone getting stuck with a used needle may have to undergo expensive medical testing and worry about having contracted a harmful or deadly disease.”
This can all be avoided by following safe methods of disposal in two simple steps:
Place all used sharps in a sharps disposal container immediately after use.
Dispose of sharps according to your community guidelines including a drop box or collection site, needle clipping or destruction devices, or mail-back programs.
Never throw sharps directly into the trash or recycling bin, and don’t touch sharps used by another person. Don’t flush sharps down the toilet or store them in glass bottles, soda bottles, milk jugs, aluminum cans, coffee cans or plastic bags.
Proper disposal includes:
Use an FDA-cleared sharps disposal container or a heavy-duty plastic household container like a laundry detergent container.
Ensure your sharps container can be closed with a tight-fitting, puncture-proof lid, can remain upright and stable during use, is leak resistant, and is properly labeled.
Clearly mark your container with text that says, “Do Not Recycle: Medical Sharps.”
Call your local trash or public health department listed in the town or county sections of the phone book to find out more on sharps disposal in your area.
Ask your healthcare provider, pharmacist or veterinarian how to obtain FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers for safe disposal.
Keep all sharps and disposal containers out of reach of children and pets.
The State of Maine provides free needle clipping devices to those in need. If you are interested, call (207) 287-7854 or visit their website