Why can't needles and syringes just be thrown into the trash? There are more than 6 million people in the U.S. infected with hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis, or other contagious diseases which can be contracted from a stick with a used hypodermic needle.
Businesses are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to deposit sharps into a sharps container that complies with OSHA regulations in order to protect employees. Once that container is full, it must be disposed of according to state and federal regulations.
Over 3 billions needles are thrown into the trash each year by home users treating illnesses such as diabetes. Even if first placed into a secured container, these containers break open when the trash truck compacts them. Workers are stuck with the needles, and must go through months of testing for HIV and hepatitis because they don't know where the needles came from, or what diseases they may carry. For this reason, non–business generators of sharps should follow their state requirements, or the guidelines established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which state that no sharps should be thrown into the trash, even if they are placed in a plastic or metal container first. Mailback sharps disposal is one of the EPA alternatives included on their website.
In addition, states such as California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and others have either passed laws or established in their regulations that disposal of sharps by home users is prohibited, regardless whether the needles are loose or in containers. Click here to view Sharp Disposal Regulations By State.
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Proper disposal includes either the pick up by a qualified sharps technician or the delivery to an approved "red bag" or medical waste treatment site. Sharps pickup technicians should provide you with a certificate of disposal. In addition to this pre-existing safety measure, all U.S. medical and educational staff are federally required to be tested on their knowledge of bloodborne pathogens.
Even if you are someone who is self-injecting for medical conditions that are not contagious (like diabetes or allergies), it is still important to dispose of the syringes, needles and lancets properly. Community workers and the general public who come into contact with discarded syringes, needles or lancets must go through months of testing and anxiety if they receive a needlestick simply because it is impossible to know the source of improperly handled sharps. Sharps Disposal by Mail programs are perfect for home use and allow consumers to responsibly dispose of their used sharps in a safe, affordable, and environmentally friendly way.
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