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In the medical setting, needles are often used to deliver necessary and even life-saving medicines. But when needles are improperly disposed of, they can become very dangerous. Improperly disposed needles can cause injury or infectious disease. While this is an important issue for those who use needles to treat diabetes or pulmonary hypertension at home, it is perhaps even more important for those working in hospitals and doctors’ offices. In either the home or the medical office/hospital setting, a sharps container is one of the best ways to prevent harm from improper needle disposal. These containers are hard, plastic containers that can be affixed to the wall of a hospital room, doctor’s treatment room, or kept in the home. These bright red containers clearly warn users of the fact that they contain medical waste. Additionally, particular sharps containers can be sent via mail to be further disposed of properly. Sharps containers are important because needles simply tossed in a trash can can poke through the plastic and other rubbish, and stick a person who is trying to empty the trash bag or can.

If this happens with a needle that is infected, the person who “gets the stick” can contract HIV (the virus that causes AIDs) or hepatitis. It goes without saying that contracting HIV has an incredible and permanent impact on a person’s life, but hepatitis can also be dangerous. Needle sticks can also cause injuries by puncturing skin, muscle, and possibly nerves. But all of these harms can be avoided if the needles are properly disposed of. If a person cannot dispose of a needle in a sharps container, some other container may do. However, obtaining a sharps container can be cheap and easy. If you need a sharps container with a mail back service, call the AIDS Action Committee Pharmacy Access Hotline to find out more about personal sharps containers. The number to reach them at is 1-800-988-5209. The company where you get your medicine should be able to provide you with one.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Ann Germanow

    In public-use women's restrooms, the metal or plastic "sanitary" napkin disposal receptacles mounted to stall partitions are commonly used for the disposal of needles. This occurs in public, commercial, institutional, retail, government facilities, especially when a sharps container is not provided.

    Since "sanitary" napkin receptacles are not always properly lined with a plastic bag to enclose the contents (OSHA expectation), janitorial staff reach their hands into the container to remove soiled products. This increases the risk of needle sticks. As one supervisor wrote, "some women would drop needles in the sanitary napkin receptacles, even though we provide a needle container."

    The solution at this facility was to remove all the "sanitary" napkin receptacles and install small refillable dispensers to dispense single use, personal size biodegradable plastic bags for the disposal of sanitary pads and tampons. Safe, clean and easy; women discard feminine care items in the restroom trash can and needles in the sharps container.

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