The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched a new website at www.fda.gov/safesharpsdisposal to inform consumers about the safe disposal of needles and other so-called “sharps” that are used at home, at work and while traveling. The website will help people understand the public health risks created by improperly disposing of used sharps and how users should safely dispose of them.
Sharps is a term for medical devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut the skin. Such medical devices include hypodermic needles and syringes used to administer medication; lancets or fingerstick devices to collect blood for testing; needle and tubing systems for infusing intravenous and subcutaneous medicines; and connection needles used for home hemodialysis.
After being used, many sharps end up in home and public trash cans or flushed down toilets. This kind of improper disposal puts people, such as sanitation workers, sewage treatment workers, janitors, housekeepers, family members and children at risk for needle stick injuries or infection with viruses such as Hepatitis B and C and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
There are several ways to safely dispose of the sharps containers. When the sharps disposal container is about three-quarters full, follow your community waste guidelines for disposing of the container. These guidelines vary depending on where you live. Local trash collection departments or health departments may have information about sharps disposal programs. In general they include:
Drop boxes: Collection sites are located at doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies and police or fire stations. Hazardous waste sites: Public collection sites for hazardous materials (e.g., paints, cleaners and motor oil) may also accept sharps containers. Residential pickup programs: Some communities have pickup services for waste that includes sharps containers. Mail-back programs: The label on the container should have information on how to mail certain FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers to a collection site for proper disposal.
If you are accidentally stuck by another person’s used sharp, FDA advises that you wash the exposed area promptly with water and soap or a skin disinfectant, (e.g. rubbing alcohol) and seek immediate medical attention.