Improper disposal of medical needles could put others at risk -

Improper disposal of medical needles could put others at risk

Almost eight billion needles, syringes and lancets are discarded every year at home or in public places according to the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal.

Self-injection is often needed to treat a variety of illnesses including diabetes, infertility and cancer.

Safe disposal of needles at home is largely unregulated leaving many people unsure about the best way to safely get rid of them.

Tossing a used needle down the toilet or into your household trash is no different than leaving an open and unsecured biohazard in your bathroom.

"That has body fluid so you have to make sure you put it somewhere that's safe for you and for the other person or persons that might come in contact with that needle," said Carla Jackson, a certified diabetes educator at Carolinas Medical Center.

Left in a waste bin, a needle and any infection it may carry is a health hazard that could potentially place children, at-home nurses and solid waste workers at risk of being accidentally stuck.

"It is just about being safe," Jackson said. "It is taking care of yourself and also taking care of your family. It has a global impact."

Safe disposal options for any one person vary dramatically depending on where a person lives and rarely, if ever, is the answer to bring used needles back to the hospital or doctor.

In some states, you can take your needles in a container to a collection box found in places like pharmacies and fire departments.

In other states, there are household hazardous waste collection sites.

Several rural communities offer mail-back programs where needles can be shipped off or there might be the option of syringe exchange where you can swap your old needles out for new ones.

The programs in your specific state or community can be found at

There are a few universal rules that apply regardless of your address or if your state simply doesn't offer a safe disposal system.

First, always put the cap back on the needle before disposal.

If you can't find an FDA-approved container, create a second-best solution.

"Put it in a secure container, a plastic container, so that no one else can be poked with it," Jackson said.

Some organizations recommend using a heavy-duty plastic bottle that is leak-resistant, upright and has a tight fitting lid like a detergent bottle. Be sure to label it -- Do Not Recycle.

"It has to go somewhere and it's going to stay with us for years. So, it is important that you have knowledge of what to really do," Jackson said.

Doing everything you can do given the options in your community can keep a long line of other people safe.

Consider the safe disposal of needles at home a small responsibility and added dose of precaution for all self-injectors.

There are at-home products you can buy which will destroy the needle by melting or clipping off the point, but don't try to do this yourself without the proper equipment.

If you need to inject medications for your pet, all the same rules apply.

Additional Information

The following information is from the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal:

  • Recent data from the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal (Coalition) indicates that 13.5 million people in the United States are discarding 7.8 billion used sharps (needles, syringes, etc.) outside the traditional healthcare setting. The majority of these patients are managing their own healthcare (e.g. diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, HIV, Hepatitis C, osteoporosis, infertility) by self-injecting medication at home.
  • California, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin offer "Drop Box Collection Points" in places like pharmacies, fire departments, doctor's offices, hospitals, health departments and medical waste facilities. Self-injectors can take their filled containers to these sites for disposal.
  • Some household hazardous waste collection sites will take used needles (in a container) for disposal. These sites often accept other materials like cleaners, paints and motor oil. Check with your local waste provider to see if they collect needles.
  • Some mail-back programs allow users to put their needles in a special container and return it by mail to a collection site for disposal. These are often in rural communities, communities without a medical waste pick-up service or individuals who want to protect their privacy.
  • Some state and local governments, as well as many non-profit organizations, fund syringe exchange programs. Users can exchange used needles for new needles. To find out more, contact the North American Syringe Exchange Network at 253 272-4857.
  • There are at-home products for disposal that destroy the needle, making it safe for disposal.
  • Never place containers with used needles or syringes in a recycling bin.
  • Never place loose sharps in the garbage.
  • Do not place sharps in containers with a BIOHAZARD label on the outside of the container in the household garbage. Biohazard material is typically not allowed in household trash. Sharps containers with a Biohazard label are usually treated as medical waste. To find out if your state allows sharps containers in the household trash contact your state waste department for specific regulations on household medical waste.
  • Destruction devices can be used that bend, break, incinerate or shear needles. Once the needle has been destroyed, the remaining syringe can be disposed of in the garbage.
  • Devices or containers with mechanisms that bend, break, incinerate (destroy by high heat), or shear needles are called sharps needle destruction devices.
  • In many states its legal to put used needles in a laundry detergent bottle, then dispose of into the garbage. However, this can still injure or harm garbage haulers and processing workers. Make sure the detergent bottle is labeled "DO NOT RECYCLE." Put the needles in point-first. Dispose of when the container is half full. Make sure the cap is always on.

The following information is from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

  • Some organizations recommend using a heavy-duty plastic bottle as an alternative. Make sure the container is leak-resistant, upright, with a tight fitting lid (detergent container).
  • When the container is about 3/4 full, follow your community guidelines for disposal.
  • Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV are some of the common infections that can be transmitted via used needles.
  • Used needles and other sharps are dangerous to people and pets if not disposed of safely because they can injure people and spread infections that cause serious health conditions.
  • Pet owners who give medicine to pets via needles need to follow the same guidelines.
  • If you are accidentally stuck by a used needle, wash the exposed area with soap and water or a disinfectant (rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer). Seek care with a doctor or hospital.
  • If you can't find a safe disposal site:
    • Recap the needle or use a needle clipper until you have an opportunity to dispose of sharps in an appropriate sharps disposal container. Never throw away loose needles and other sharps in trash cans or recycling bins, and never flush them down the toilet.
    • Do not bend or break the needle when recapping.
    • To recap, place the cap on a flat surface with something firm to push the cap against. Holding the syringe in one hand, slip the needle into the cap without using the other hand. Push the needle against the firm surface to secure.
    • A needle clipper can be used on small syringes but not on lancets. check your community guidelines for acceptable disposal methods.

The following information is from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

  • DO use an FDA-cleared sharps disposal container, if possible. If an FDA-cleared container is not available, some organizations and community guidelines recommend using a heavy-duty plastic household container as an alternative.
  • DO make sure that if a household container is used, it has the basic features of a good disposal container.
  • DO carry a portable sharps disposal container for travel.
  • DO follow your community guidelines for getting rid of your sharps disposal container.
  • DO call your local trash or public health department (listed in the county and city government section of your phone book) to find out about sharps disposal programs in your area.
  • DO ask your health care provider, veterinarian, local hospital or pharmacist where and how to get an FDA-cleared sharps disposal container, if they can dispose of your used needles and other sharps, or if they know of sharps disposal programs near you.
  • DO keep all sharps and sharps disposal containers out of reach of children and pets.
  • DO seal sharps disposal containers when disposing of them, label them properly and check your community guidelines on how to properly dispose of them.
  • DO ask your medical or prescription insurer whether they cover sharps disposal containers.
  • DO ask the manufacturer of your drug products that are used with a needle or other sharps if they provide a sharps disposal container to patients at no charge.
  • DO report a problem associated with sharps and disposal containers.
  • DON'T throw loose needles and other sharps into the trash.
  • DON'T flush needles and other sharps down the toilet.
  • DON'T put needles and other sharps in your recycling bin -- they are not recyclable.
  • DON'T try to remove, bend, break, or recap needles used by another person. This can lead to accidental needle sticks, which may cause serious infections.
  • DON'T attempt to remove the needle without a needle clipper because the needle could fall, fly off, or get lost and injure someone.

The following information is from a pamphlet published by the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Household disposal is not typically regulated and many people do not know the safest disposal method.
  • Self-injection is often needed for allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, MS, osteoporosis, psoriasis.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Web site, located at < <>>, provides state-by-state information on sharps-related laws and regulations, safe community disposal programs, published guidance, and contact information.

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Fugitive Friday: Central Virginia's Most Wanted

    Fugitive Friday: Central Virginia's Most Wanted

    Friday, July 25 2014 8:49 AM EDT2014-07-25 12:49:07 GMT
    Fugitive Fridays tracks down Central Virginia's most wanted. Take a look at the photos and see if you can help police track down these suspects.
    Fugitive Friday helps track down Central Virginia's Most Wanted.
  • Physicians warn against giving melatonin to children

    Physicians warn against giving melatonin to children

    Parents desperate to get their troubled sleepers to bed are turning to synthetic melatonin, which is a supplement sold over the counter. But expert warn it could have adverse effects on child development.
    Many adults turn to sleep aids like melatonin, but now more parents are giving them to their kids, too. We talked to physicians to see what they had to say about how it could affect your child's development.
  • Six deadly foods for dogs

    Six deadly foods for dogs

    Every pet owner knows a dog can get into just about anything around the house. One woman found that out the hard way when her dog ate a bunch of grapes! Turns out, that's one of the most dangerous foods
    Every pet owner knows a dog can get into just about anything around the house. But these common snacks could be fatal for Fido.
Powered by WorldNow