Every year, 8 million people across the country use more than 3 billion sharps (needles, syringes, and lancets) to manage medical conditions at home.
Safe sharps disposal by self-injectors is very important in helping to control the transmission of blood borne diseases. It is important that self-injectors know and use the safest disposal methods available. Unsafe disposal could result in increased community exposure to sharps. People at the greatest risk of being injured by used sharps include sanitation and sewage treatment workers, janitors, recycling center workers, housekeepers, and children.
Due to the potential physical and biological hazards that unsafe sharps disposal presents, precautions must be taken to ensure their proper disposal.
The Hazard and Risk
Syringes are designed to be sharp in order to pierce the skin easily and allow fluids to pass through from one end to the other. While the design is perfect for their use in injections and blood collections, it also presents a physical and biological hazard for people handling them.
Even after use, needles and syringes may still puncture the skin and potentially spread germs and diseases, such as hepatitis, HIV, tetanus and syphilis.
“Needle-stick” injuries are a preventable health risk. Injuries resulting from improper disposal may demand expensive testing, cause long-term emotional stress, and increase the risk of exposure to infectious diseases.
- Sharps should be placed in a container immediately after use.
- Place used needles/syringes in a rigid puncture-resistant container with secure lids or caps and label it “Sharps.”
- Thoroughly rinsed, heavy plastic detergent or bleach bottles with screw caps are acceptable as sharps containers.
- Store the sharps container in a secure location, away from children and pets.
- When the container is full, seal it, and be sure the “Sharps” label is still clearly visible.
- To locate a nearby collection site for disposal of your used needles/syringes,
- Throw loose needles in the garbage.
- Attempt to bend, break, or remove needles from the sharps container.
- Attempt to recap a needle that is not yours.
- Recycle or reuse your needles or syringes.
- Flush used needles or syringes down the toilet.
- Put loose needles or containers containing needles in recycling bins/containers.
- Use glass containers to dispose of the needles or syringes.
- Dispose of needles or syringes in a trash receptacle without a container.
United States Environmental Protection Agency - Community Options for Safe Needle Disposal