By NEMS Daily Journal
The dangerous and widespread but not intentionally harmful disposal of used syringes in household trash would not have come to light in Lee County and Tupelo had not two county sanitation workers recently been stuck by needles in bags picked up in weekly service rounds.
The garbage workers were checked to ensure that they had not contracted a disease from the used needles. The county has issued fair notice to all customers using its trash and garbage pick-up service that fines up to $250 can be imposed for improper disposal of syringes.
Used needles, as is well documented, can carry a multitude of blood-bones diseases, including but not limited to the HIV/AIDS virus and hepatitis. Most of the needles seen in household garbage are used for legal, prescribed medical treatment for diabetes, allergies and chemotherapy. Because diagnosis of disease treatable and managed with prescribed injections increases needle use every year, the syringe issue becomes more important everywhere.
“We hadn’t started fining at this point, but it looks like we’re going to have to,” said Lee County Solid Waste Director Terry McGlaun in an interview with Journal reporter Emily Le Coz. “We’ve got people putting needles in the garbage, and they don’t go there.”
Safe disposal involves placing the used needles in safe containers, then taking them to drop-off sites from which they taken to an official safe disposal site. Jim Bain’s Pharmacy on North Gloster Street across from Milam School has safe disposal available during business hours (at no charge), and safe disposal also is offered at Saltillo Fire Department.
Almost all drug stories and pharmacies sell approved safe-disposal containers for needles and other “sharp” objects. As regular, legal needle users know, even the tiniest needles can penetrate heavy garments and puncture skin.
Mississippi residents use an estimated 30 million needles each year. Nationwide, people use an estimated 1 billion needles and other “sharpies” in a year.
The needles collected at approved drop-off sites are handled by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Tupelo’s trash hauler, Waste Management, has joined several safe needle-disposal efforts nationwide.
Because of the dangers that used syringes bring in the form of transmitting blood-borne diseases, notably HIV and hepatitis, safely disposing of syringes is a vital concern for public health and safety.
Nationwide, the Environmental Protection Agency offers free on-line instruction for safe needle and sharp-object disposal – http://www.epa.gov/osw/ disposal.
Instruction also is available from professional pharmacists and at drug stores.
Even good, legal drugs can have widespread after-effects.