How to Dispose of Needles Safely at Home
Millions of Americans each year take injections at home for diabetes, arthritis, migraines or a vast variety of other health conditions. This process can be challenging and is not a easy or painless task, but it can be lifesaving. Do to the increase of self injectors at home there is a increasing issue related to how to properly dispose of your sharps once those injections are completed.
First of all, what are sharps? According to the FDA, examples of sharps are hollow needles used to inject drugs (medication) under the skin. Syringes – devices used to inject medication into or withdraw fluid from the body. Lancets, also called “fingerstick” devices – instruments with a short, two-edged blade used to get drops of blood for testing.
Sharps are disposed of in Sharps disposal containers, which according to the FDA, are made from rigid puncture-resistant plastic or metal with leak-resistant sides and bottom, and a tight-fitting, puncture-resistant lid with an opening to accommodate depositing a sharp but not large enough for a hand to enter.
There are different requirements for sharps containers pertaining to whether it is considered for use at a healthcare facility, nursing home, or at home. According to the CDC, alternative sharps disposal containers must meet OSHA requirements and may include heavy-duty plastic household containers, such as empty plastic laundry detergent, windshield wiper fluid, cat litter, or bleach containers that have been emptied and thoroughly rinsed. It is imperative that whatever container is used, that it is properly labeled.
There have been numerous instances of accidental sticks from improperly labeled containers used for sharps. In fact, there was one lady who was receiving home healthcare during a difficult pregnancy, and she had to inject herself on a daily basis with medication. She disposed of the sharps in a solid, plastic opaque orange juice container but didn’t label it. She assumed everyone else in the household knew which one it was, since it was left on top of the refrigerator instead of inside of it. One day her husband went to pour himself a glass of orange juice only to find a very scary surprise of a bottle filled with used needles, yikes! There are countless stories like this one but because there is a real lack of understanding and training for at home sharps disposal.
Why is sharps container disposal becoming regulated in states?
It goes without saying sharps can be dangerous if not properly disposed of. They pose a risk not only to you, but the other people in your household, especially children and even pets! Needles have been known to harm pets and other animals who are attracted to the smell and ultimately end up getting injured. Sharps also pose a risk to anyone else who may come in contact with them, including sanitation workers if they are recklessly discarded into the trash. Some sharps have even been carelessly disposed of by flushing them down the toilet, causing sewage clogs and exposing many more to potential health risks and injuries. Never ever flush your sharps down the toilet or throw them away in the trash!
The CDC estimates that there are approximately 385,000 sharps injuries by contaminated needles ever year! This is in multiple settings, including healthcare facilities, nursing homes, emergency services and home healthcare. These injuries expose their recipients to the risks of bloodborne virus transmission, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, as well as many other bloodborne pathogens.
The rules and regulations for sharps container disposal are heavily regulated in the medical community and clear instruction has been given by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), as well as the CDC, FDA and even state and local law authorities. However, it is not as closely monitored in the home healthcare setting because patients simply don’t even realize the risks and threats sharps disposal pose. They haven’t been through hours of training the medical community has and haven’t been given a set of rules to follow. Typically, patients are left to figure all of this out for themselves and have to seek out the regulations and disposal processes.
How to get rid of a sharps container near me?
According to the FDA, you may be able to drop off your sharps disposal containers at appropriate chosen collection sites, such as doctors' offices, hospitals, pharmacies, health departments, medical waste facilities, and police or fire stations. Services may be free or have a small fee. You may also be able to drop off your sharps disposal containers at local public household hazardous waste collection sites. These are sites that also commonly accept hazardous materials such as household cleaners, paints and motor oil. There is also a residential specialized waste pickup services available in some locations. Some require calls per pickup and others run on a standard pickup schedule.
Other options for safe at home disposal of sharps containers
Perhaps one of the most convenient options for sharps container disposal is the mail back solution. This is as simple as it sounds, you are mailed a special FDA approved sharps disposal container with specific instructions on how to secure the package for when you are ready to dispose of it. Once you have followed the instructions per the mail back kit, you are then able to mail it through the United Stated Postal Office. This will be at a nominal fee typically, depending on the size of the sharps container needed. Some pharmaceutical companies considerately even include a free mail back system with their injectable medications, leaving you one less thing to worry about! You may even ask if your pharmaceutical company has any programs like this and if they will be implementing one in the near future.
It is vital that people understand the risks that home injection sharps pose to them and their household if not properly contained, stored and disposed of. You have now been made aware of what proper disposal entails. You now know the types of containers necessary for disposal and have also been given several options of how to dispose of your containers, whether it be through special drop off locations, specialized scheduled waste pickup or mail back systems. Through a few simple actions you are empowered to prevent injuries to yourself and others, while also taking care of your health at home.
How PureWay can help you with Sharps Container Disposal
PureWay manufactures a special injectable / sharps disposal system specific for small volumes of waste generated in a home or at a business like a dentist, veterinarian, clinic or independent surgery center. These options include mail back products of various sizes and on site pickup. For more details please visit our our website or request a quote from one if our waste and compliance specialist.