Approximately 13 billion needles, syringes and lancets enter the waste stream every year with the vast majority related to home-based diabetes therapies.
Imporper disposal of sharps pollutes the environment and can cause eccidental needle stick injuries to household members, sanitation workers, housekeeping staff and flight attendants. Improper disposal increases the risk of transmitting certain diseases and infections and with that comes the additional cost to monitor and treat the injury/infections.
Fortunately, state and municipal governments are framing regulations, guidelines and procedures for proper handling and thus safe disposal of home generated sharps. At this time, many patients are unaware of the regulations because there is very little in the way of educational materials dealing with this topic. Thankfully, the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal organization is helping by providing the guidance and educational materials on their website (wwwlsafeneedledisposal.org).
Never place used sharps in the trash or in an unsealed container.
Do not place in an unlabled container.
Do not flush sharps down the toilet.
Avoid placing sharps in regular garbage pickup unless local guidelines indicate that is acceptable.
Always use a rigid container, preferably an approved sharps container, and place the point down in the container. Make sure the container is completely sealed and clearly identified as "Sharps" or "Biohazard."
Educating everyone who is associated with the dispensing and usage of sharps in the home is a critical element in reducing accidental sticks and improper disposal. Further devellpment of educational materials and published regulations, along with multiple options for disposal, such as authorized collection sites, mail back programs and residential special wate pickup programs, will ensure that home generated sharps disposal becomes easier and safer for all those involved.